Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Most Beautiful Supermarket in the World? Teatro Italia Morphs into De Spar in Venice

Teatro Italia in Venice
(Venice, Italy) This morning I happened to be passing by the Teatro Italia on Strada Nuova, and I noticed that the beautiful little building, which has been closed for ages, was bustling. Curious, I went inside, and saw that it was now a Despar supermarket.

"How long how this been open?" I asked the fellow at the door.

"An hour and a half," he grinned. "Go on inside and have a look."

Teatro Italia interior - now Despars supermarket
The Teatro Italia is a singular architectural gem in a city full of magnificent structures. Inaugurated in 1916, the neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau styled building is one of the first examples that used iron and reinforced concrete. It is one of the rare cinemas in Italy that still retains the original structure and interior painted decorations -- The Allegory of the Glory of Italy is in the center of the ceiling.

Back then, motion pictures were toddling to their feet; both the Italian film industry and Hollywood were still in their infancy, and Europe was smack in the middle of its first World War. The films were silent; talkies would not arrive until the late 1920s. We can only imagine what excitement the opening of such a superb venue caused in the hearts of the Venetians in 1916.

Needless to say, turning such a structure into a supermarket did not go down without a fight.

The Bread Section at Teatro Italia
After much haggling and design changing, the Teatro Italia is now a Despar supermarket. I did a little shopping along with a group that was predominately Venetian. The Despar people were giving out some free samples of prosciutto and fried fish, and helping us select our bread. The prices were competitive; actually some a bit lower than other supermarkets in Venice. They instructed me on how to use the self check-out machine, and gave me a free Despar shopping bag.

Balcony at Teatro Italia
Would I prefer it to be a cinema? Of course. All over the planet, we have suffered as we've watched our grand childhood movie houses and their memories transformed into something other.

But if it has to be a supermarket, I think they should give the residents of Venice a discount. Since there are about 25 million tourists and about 53 thousand residents, I think the goodwill it would generate might help offset the shock of the transformation.

A spoonful of sugar would help the medicine go down.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


  1. This morning I happened to be passing by the Teatro Italia on Strada Nuova, and I noticed that the beautiful little building, which has been closed for ages, was bustling. Curious, I went inside, and saw that it was now a Despars supermarket.

  2. I can't believe it is a supermarket! Thanks for sharing the info.

  3. Oh, it is a supermarket, Theresa, a very nice supermarket, but a supermarket all the same. It's surreal.

  4. Next time I go to Venice (only 1hour by train from my home), I will surely visit this supermarket!

  5. Hi, Cristina - Did you read the second post I wrote? Eventually the balcony will open for cultural events, so it will really be The Most Beautiful Supermarket in the World:-)

  6. This is horrific and a disgrace for the city and its inhabitants who - across different generations - went to watch movies (like my father), studied (there used to be a big lecture theatre and other teaching spaces of Ca' Foscari University) and taught there (like in my case) and now will buy prosciutto... it might be worth adding up some of this infos, Cat, before tourists pour into ex Cinema Italia to see the surreal, rather than imagining/guessing the beauty it had before, as well as the cultural, social, artistic and educational spell it casted for generations of Venetians and non Venetians...

  7. Giovanna, it is already DONE. The first day I went, there were mostly Venetians. The second day, the tourists were already in there. So, the question is, now that it is done -- it cannot be undone, it is most definitely a supermarket -- is there a way to keep its dignity? Please give it some serious thought because I would especially love to have your input. One thing I would suggest is to switch the Muzak over to Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, Marcello, etc., and I am not joking.