A group in Italy's canal city, Venice, is planning to hold a "funeral" for their hometown, which is rapidly losing its permanent residents. The group says the city is being drained of its normal life.
Venetians have been concerned about the declining population of the canal city for decades. The population stood at more than 145,000 in 1960. Thirty years later, it had dropped to about 78,000. Now it has hit an all time low, dipping below the 60,000 mark.
Many residents are concerned and feel something needs to be done about this steady demographic decline. They say the population is getting older, the buildings are in a state of degradation, and more and more shops are being opened for the millions of tourists that visit the city.
But they say the traditions and crafts of the canal city are fast disappearing.
Mario Secchi says he was born in Venice, his dad and grand dad were Venetians, but he was forced to emigrate to the mainland because the rents were too high in the historic center.
His son, Matteo Secchi, a local businessman who runs a hotel, is one of the organizers of the upcoming funeral for the city. On November 14, a group of Venetians will carry a coffin symbolizing the death of the city down the Grand Canal in a procession of three boats and anyone else who wants to join in.
Matteo Secchi says the high property prices and rental costs are forcing ordinary residents to leave the city.
"Venice is under attack from the business," he said. "The rich people think they are at the stock exchange with the houses of Venice. For example they buy at 100 an empty house and they sell after 5 years at 150, like the stock exchange. Venice stock exchange."
Secchi and his friends are also responsible for a population counter that has been placed in the shop-window of a pharmacy in the city center.
Doctor Andrea Morelli explains why he decided to host the counter in the shop.
The doctor says it was installed in March 2008. He decided to do this out of his love for the city of Venice and because he thought it was important to put on display the real decline of the population, to raise public awareness.
The more pessimistic Venetian residents say the countdown has begun and that if the exodus continues at this rhythm, in 2030 Venice will have become a ghost city with no more citizens, just hordes of tourists. Today 18 million tourists visit Venice every year, but in 20 years this number risks doubling.