There’s been much talk during the last years about the Fontego dei Tedeschi and controversies have escalated after its re-opening as “T Fondaco”.
Recently it was impossible not to read or hear – in Venetian bacari, waiting in line at Rialto market or moving on vaporetti) residents’ conflicting views on the new attraction in town. In addition, eight long years of renewal have contributed to increase the sense of anticipation preceding the inauguration.
We visited the Fontego few days after its opening; we rather preferred to wait until the crowd that rushed in right after the renewal flew away.
To us, as well as – I believe – to any other Venetian who is used to live in a town with limited space, often dark and narrow, it was a surprise to rediscover such a large scale structure.
We definitely had not forgotten the columns, the arches and the huge central court that previously housed Poste Venete’s offices; still, eight years is a long time and feelings and memories fade away easily.
The Fontego, located close to Rialto Bridge and facing the Grand Canal, is built on three storeys, a clerestory and a big terrace with an exclusive panoramic view, now freely and publicly accessible (it’s probably the flagship of the restoration works).
We were impressed by the attention to detail: you can see astonishing Rubelli textiles decorating the inner balconies, the whole environment is infused with a green tea and white musk, the lights are properly set throughout the building (also along the staircases), and you can see breath-taking views of the surrounding neighbourhood from the numerous windows at the floors.
Renewal works have conveniently integrated the modernity and pomp of any luxury shopping center, with the architectural and historical elements of the original structure.
These are our impressions about the T Fondaco as a container.
And what about its contents?
T Fondaco is actually hosting 65 high fashion boutiques in clothing, accessories and food sectors, the minimum required for any international and cosmopolitan city such as Venice in 2016.
Visibility has certainly been given to local high quality handicraft: textiles, glass, leather and DOC (controlled designation of origin) products.
But we feel that a shopping center of this kind is not aimed to Venetian residents. It suffices to take note of the billboards inside: promotional writings are marked in big Mandarin characters and in English – smaller -letters.
T Fondaco is apparently “flirting” with customers from Eastern Asia, another proof is given by the large number of young Mandarin mother tongue shop assistants warmly greeting groups of visitors from China.
If one of T Fondaco purposes was to promote the territory through the sale of local goods, it’s surprising that no space was provided for the small artisans’ wonderful creations in town: even if they’re likely to be lesser renowned, they can compete on equal terms with big brands thanks to their uniqueness and quality.
Anyway, T Fondaco has brought to Venice that refreshing new tone of modernity that many may dislike but that couldn’t be avoided any longer.
The message is clear enough: for the time being no room will be provided for high quality products of local small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and artisans, and no specific sign of opening has been shown towards Venetian potential customers.
As residents, we can only take comfort in the idea of having another place in town where the huge crowd of tourist can flow in, decreasing the pressure in the calli.
And it’s actually a wonderful location to spend some time indoors surrounded by beautiful things, and why not, treating ourselves with luxury purchases from time to time.