Death in Venice made easier by new funeral rule
Bereaved allowed to scatter ashes in lagoon for first time
Venice, the lagoon city long associated with melancholy decay, is doing its best to live up to its reputation by making it easier for the souls of the dead to spend eternity there.
Thanks to a new council resolution, from next year grieving relatives will for the first time be able to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the lagoon or in the shallows off the Venice Lido.
The decision extends not only to residents but to any non-Venetians inspired by the city's defining novel, Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. "We took into account the many foreigners who love this city and who would like to be buried here, but who would not find room at the cemetery," said the city's environmental assessor, Gianfranco Bettin.
The council is constructing a pontoon extending into the lagoon at Venice's island cemetery, San Michele, from which ashes can be scattered. As an alternative, mourners can head for the Lido – the Venice beach where Dirk Bogarde breathes his last in the film adaption of Mann's novel – and charter a boat which takes them 700 metres out into the Adriatic to empty their urns under the supervision of a public official.
A council spokeswoman said non-residents will be charged €350 (£300) and residents only €50.
A small lawn will also be set aside at San Michele, where American poet Ezra Pound and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky are buried, for those wishing to scatter ashes on dry land. An electronic screen will be set up on which records of the cremated can be consulted.
The council regulation also permits locals to keep ashes at home on the mantelpiece for the first time. Bettin said the rules were based on a new national law. "We are the first big city to put them into effect," he said. "Understandably we have a real problem with space for the deceased here."
Article appeared in the Guardian.co.uk on Monday 20th December, 2012
Written by Tom Kington in Rome