Venice holds gondola-led funeral procession to lament population decline | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 14.11.2009
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Venice holds gondola-led funeral procession to lament population decline

The high cost of living, rampant tourism and rising water levels have led many Venetians to seek an easier life on Italy's mainland, leaving behind an ever-shrinking local population.

Gondolas snake through Venice's Grand Canal carrying a coffin to represent the city in peril

The city's population has halved since 1966

Venice is one of Europe's most beautiful and popular tourist attractions, but residents of the city are not celebrating.

In a symbolic protest that both mourned the city's shrinking population and demonstrated hope for the future, Venetians held a mock funeral procession through Venice's trademark canals, complete with pall bearers in black capes and a flower-draped coffin.

The procession ended at city hall, where protesters read a message of condolence and a poem in the local dialect. Despite the mournful atmosphere, organizers tried to end the action on an optimistic note. At the climax, pallbearers smashed open the coffin to brandish a flag with an image of the phoenix, symbolizing the city's resurrection.

Tourism contributes to decline

Native Venetians stage a mock funeral procession in Venice, Italy

Venetians fear the shrinking population could soon turn the city into a living museum

The local Web site organized the protest in response to a report last month stating the city's population had fallen below 60,000, half of what it was in 1966.

Several factors have contributed to the population decline, including mounting housing costs brought on by rampant tourism, rising water levels and a low birth rate.

Venice city officials said it was too soon to mourn the city's death, and that the population has since risen back above 60,000.

In addition, that number doesn't include the inhabitants of Venice's islands, who together add another 120,000.

Editor: Nathan Witkop

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