Famed Venice view goes commercial

Residents disagree over plans to convert a 500-year-old palazzo into a department store in Venice, Italy.

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
Rialto Bridge, with Fondaco dei Tedeschi behind it.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Immortalized by Venetian painter Cana­letto, it forms the graceful backdrop to a million tourist snaps of Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge. But a plan to convert a 500-year-old palazzo into a department store has met with hostility here.

The Renaissance building, known as the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, overlooks the Grand Canal and was built in the early 16th century as the headquarters for German merchants. In the 20th century it became Venice’s main post office, but has stood empty and unused for several years.

Now there are plans to refurbish the building and slice off part of its roof to form a terrace with a panoramic view.

Italia Nostra (Our Italy), a heritage group, says the “very serious alterations” will gravely compromise the architectural integrity and historical identity of the building. Nonsense, says the mayor of Venice, who is backing the plan. The project is due to begin by December 2012.

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