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June 17, 1999

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Venice Versus Vegas



In the spirit of tax write-offs everywhere and a nod to putting my money where my mouth is . . . I recently checked out Venice—as in Italy—to see how it compares with our faux Venetian hotel in size and substance. Yes, I spent 14 hours in the air and 14 days in Italy, just to educate you about the cultural differences between the real thing and our expensive fake on Las Vegas Boulevard. Okay, not really, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it come audit time . . . anyway a few days strolling around the Piazza San Marco—that’s Saint Mark’s Square to all you squares out there—convinced me that our two cities have more in common than either of them would like to admit. Both Sheldon Adeson and the Italian mayor of Venezia should take a moment and do a reality check the next time either of them gets their ego in a bunch over the fabulousness of either enterprise.

What both have in common—and at least here in Vegas we have the guts to admit—is a shameless exploitation of tourism as their sole reason for being. Venice, Italy is an aquatic Euro-Disney so crawling with tourists that whatever real life exists there is obscured by waves of stupefied fanny packers. Sorta sounds like someplace we all know doesn’t it?? No, place on earth tops Venice in over-priced restaurants with menus printed in five languages. This tradition of the tourist gouge was invented by the Romans and Venetians about 500 years ago and we are the cultural heirs of this not-so-proud tradition. The scale of the real Venice is truly awesome and it is prettier—in spite of the Germans—but our Venetian is cleaner—so I doubt Shelly baby will ever let a foul stench rise from the small moat encircling his hotel. Imagine a moonlit night in Northern Italy, surrounded by palaces and medieval streets as you gaze across the Venetian lagoon outward towards the Adriatic Sea. A warm breeze blows as you dine al fresco amidst waves that gently lap and caress your dining veranda—then, just as you’re enjoying a huge bite of the sweetest and freshest shrimp in the world—a blast of raw sewage hits you in the face—metaphorically speaking—and lingers tableside for the rest of the meal, now that’s Italian, but it ain’t Vegas and I’m thankful for it.

This is John Curtas

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