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Venice’s St. Mark’s Square – Minus the Pigeon Droppings


If you’ve ever been to Venice, no doubt you’ve spent some time in St. Mark’s Square. Napoleon called it “the finest drawing room in Europe.” On one side of the piazza sits perhaps my favorite church (Basilica San Marco), and at night there are outdoor cafes with dueling bands to keep even those just passing through amused and entertained. There can be little argument, St. Mark’s Square is truly lovely.

Unfortunately, it’s also home to pigeons.

No one is allowed to feed pigeons in any other part of Venice except St. Mark’s Square, where a few vendors set up birdseed stands every day. They cater to the tourists who, for reasons that are quite beyond my understanding, want to be covered in pigeons for a photo op. Honestly, in my two trips to the lagoon city I’ve just stared at the people who have those filthy birds climbing through their hair and all over their arms and shoulders and thought, “Good lord, they’re not going to go eat now, are they? Without disinfecting everything they’re wearing? Or at least washing their hands?” Blech.

Well, despite the complaints, someone is finally trying to rid St. Mark’s Square of the pigeons, saying “they are a public health menace and a nuisance, eroding monuments with their excrement.” And how. This isn’t the first time the issue has been brought up, however, as the vendors in the square selling bags of food to tourists said if the pigeons were to be chased off, their livelihood would go away as well.

I really hope the public-health and monument-health people win this time. I wonder how much pigeon excrement weighs? I mean, with the pigeons gone, would Venice stop sinking? Ah, probably not. But it’s worth a try.