The City of Venice, led by Mayor Massimo Cacciari, has become so frustrated by the lack of state funding that they have signed a controversial contract, which will allow Coca-Cola to install vending machines throughout the city in return for the relatively small annual sponsorship of 2.1 million euro ($2.7m).
The decision has been denounced as a sell-out by Italian newspapers and residents since the national paper La Stampa broke the news on Tuesday with the headline “Venice swallowed by Coca-Cola”.
The five-year deal includes the placement of sixty vending machines which will sell soft drinks, snacks and sandwiches in locations across the city, including at the main waterbus stations and reportedly even St Mark’s Square, despite local rules which ban people from picnicking in this area.
Maurizio Franceschi, the secretary of the regional retailers association, said: ‘It’s not just business people who experience this as competition, but the citizens of Venice who see the presence of international brands such as McDonalds as a violence against the city.’
With the new fund destined for conservation works around the city, Mayor Massimo Cacciari has defended the decision in light of the lack of state funding to conserve Venice’s crumbling palaces and churches.
The Italian government led by Silvio Berlusconi has slashed its budget for culture and the arts by a half this year and is investing millions of dollars in an ambitious engineering scheme for flood barriers to prevent Venice being swamped by high tides in winter.