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Venice up in arms over threat to Rialto fish market

Merchants worried about move to make way for cruise ships

14 March, 18:11
Venice up in arms over threat to Rialto fish market (ANSA) - Milan, March 14 - Venice fish mongers and vegetable vendors marched Monday to protest a perceived threat to the historic Venice Fish Market, located in the Rialto. A multicolored procession of about 200 merchants walked from the Rialto market to the town hall in Ca' Farsetti seeking official assurances that the wholesale fish market that furnishes the famous street market would not be moved to a more distant location.

Venice mayor Giorgio Orsoni has already denied rumors that the wholesale fish market would be moved from the current location at Tronchetto, about 400 meters away from the Rialto, to Fusina, which is roughly two hours away by boat. Reports worrying merchants say the transfer would be made to make way for a 300-meter enlargement of the port to accommodate large cruise ships.

For the citizens' group that organized the protest, Venessia, putting the Rialto fish market at risk would be comparable to the November collapse of the 'House of the Gladiators' in Pompei. The group in 2009 also organized a 'funeral' for the city with a procession of boats in the Venice Lagoon.

"Do we really want the price of a sole to go from five to 20 euros, so people go to buy it in Mestre (on the mainland), with the domino effect...(that) the fruit and vegetable vendors, and then stores, also leave?" prodded the Rialto merchants' spokesperson Gino Mascari.

Protesting merchants visibly doubted the Venice mayor's assurances, carrying one sign that read, "Mayor's word, sailor's word?" The quip makes reference to a popular Italian expression and negative stereotype of sailors as untrustworthy.

"With this demonstration, we ask to be given additional certainty to what, so far, are just words. "We are here without political affiliations, only for the love of our city, because it regards not just the lives of the people who live off the fish market, but would be a terrible wound (to the city)," added Mascari.