Zamperla to Turn Trash to Treasure in Venice

Posted by Rachel S on Monday, November 4th, 2013

Artist rendering of Zamperla's L'isola San Biagio

Antonio Zamperla, founder of Zamperla Amusements, announced a new project in his Italian homeland that will (if successful) convert a man-made island off of Venice into a cultural and family amusement park. Sacca San Biagio was built in the 1930s to serve as a landfill. To deal with the accumulation of garbage, an incinerator was built there in the 1970s and was active through 1985 resulting in the moniker isola della spazzatura (island of trash).

Zamperla aims to revamp the noxious island site and make it an attraction where an eyesore once stood but he may have a fight on his hands. Opponents of the project claim that Venice needs fewer tourist attractions rather than more, as native Venetians are fleeing the historic floating city in favor of more affordable outlying areas that are not overrun with visitors.

Antonio Zamperla stands alongside Sacca San Biagio

While the project would create more than 500 jobs and would clean up a toxic site, Venetians may push back hard. For his part, Zamperla says, “We are arriving on tip-toes, as if entering a crystal store so we don’t cause any damage.” L’isola San Biagio, the project’s working title, would focus on the rich cultural history of Venice rather than being simply an amusement park, although amusement design is Zamperla’s forte.

He has done similar work in Germany at Wunderland Kalkar converting a disused nuclear reactor site into a fantastical family theme park, integrating the monolithic cooling tower into the design in a wondrous way. Left to his devices, one can only imagine what Zamperla could achieve on the island of trash!

Wunderland Kalkar - a Zamperla designed park

Zamperla’s plans for the roughly nine acre island include a 55 meter tall Ferris wheel, a rollercoaster and other rides which he says are necessary to cover the cost of the cultural exhibits he’s also planning for the facility. The cultural exhibits will present and explore the rich history of Venice as well as the importance of the city’s fragile lagoon ecology.

Attractions designed by Zamperla Amusements have been installed at Luna Park Coney Island, many of the inaugural attractions at Euro Disney, Tivoli Gardens, Angry Birds Land in Finland and other projects throughout the US and rest of the world. Zamperla is best known for its family-friendly amusements but has also constructed extreme thrill rides.

Old image of Sacca San Biagio when incinerator was still in operation

L’isola San Biagio is projected to open within two years if there is not a push back by critics that slow or halt the project. Opposition is already rearing up from conservation group Italia Nostra. Venice rep for the organization Lidia Fersuoch says, “We need the opposite of what they are doing, the possibility to make Venice a living city. We are always hostage to tourism.”

Zamperla has a four year concession to the land and has brought in Ca’ Foscari University Foundation to help revive the natural habitat of the island and salvaging native plants and animals – although since the facility is man-made, one must assume they’re referring to native plants of Venice itself rather than the constructed island. It should be interesting to see whether it will be Zamperla and his allies or his preservationist critics who ultimately triumphs in the debate over the fate of the island of trash!

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