Venice is living a Christmas passed by water. In the early hours of Tuesday the alarm sirens sounded again minutes before 60% of the city’s historic center was covered by 144 centimeters of water. Far away, however, the 184 centimeters reached on November 12, when the second was recorded high acqua most serious in history, which completely flooded 70% of the town. In recent weeks, these tides have caused millionaire losses: only the damages recorded in the Basilica of San Marcos, located in the mythical Venetian square, are estimated at four million euros.
The tourism industry, establishments and shops, as well as the day-to-day life of the Italian city, are the major victims of the phenomenon. Another one is the artistic and cultural heritage of the city, which for years – and especially these last two months – is entrusted to the donations of patrons and individuals from around the world to try to secure their future.
One of the best examples lies in the American association Save Venice, founded after the high acqua of 1966. The entity, which collects donations from 50 dollars for more than half a century, launched last month a Immediate Response Fund to combat floods, an initiative that, as announced by the president of the group, Frederick Ilchman, “is still operational due to the increases in recent days.” In these almost two months, the collection obtained graze the million of euros.
In its years of experience with the Ministry of Culture of Italy, the association has financed the conservation and restoration of more than 1,000 works of art, among paintings, sculptures or buildings. Now, once the most apparent and urgent damages of the last tides have been corrected, the objective is focused on the prevention of climbs that over the years are expected to be higher and more frequent due to global warming. For this, says Melissa Conn, director of Save Venice in the office of the Italian city itself, thousands of euros are being allocated to the purchase of aluminum and stainless steel barriers to install on doors and windows of the most unique buildings. A game has also been allocated to the sea gate project that aims to protect the city from the most damaging floods, a work that will end predictably at the end of 2021 and is estimated at 5.5 billion.
The patrons themselves are aware of this risk. As Melissa Conn says, “donations to mitigate the effects of climate change on art and heritage have increased almost 55% in this year in relation to 2018. Now, in the long term, what most worries are the foundations of the buildings ”. Along the same lines, Tracy Roberts, vice president of the LoveItaly !, association, founded in 2014 by the Italian listed LVenture Group, aims to safeguard the country’s artistic and cultural wealth: “Venice is still in danger, as is its immense heritage. The participation of ordinary citizens in the conservation of art is fundamental and effective for its maintenance, ”he explains.
However, ensuring the foundations and structures are not the only objectives of this type of associations, which drink mainly from the United States. Save Venice, for example, has allocated these weeks 60,000 euros to the restoration of The Annunciation of Titian, a painting that, despite having survived the floods, is damaged by the humidity and salinity generated in the environment. There have also been budgets to desalinate the columns, sculptures and mosaics of the Ca’d’Oro Palace, on the Grand Canal, which has required 65,000 euros. And two initiatives that add up to a budget have already been given the green light total of 2.3 million: The Basilica of Santa María Asunta will restore its paintings and boards and the Jewish Quarter Synagogue will repair the wooden benches and balustrades damaged by moisture.
In the opinion of Tracy Roberts, all these movements can be made thanks to the tax advantages available to donations from Anglo-Saxon countries, “mainly the United States.” These types of incentives, which may have an 80% deduction in the case of natural persons, “certainly encourage philanthropy.” Thus, although the majority of donations received by Save Venice in 2019 move between 100 and 5,000 euros, there are some that exceed even 100,000 euros.