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‘Musicians of Venice: Put A Lid On It,’ Judge Orders

September 7, 1995

VENICE, Italy (AP) _ Cafe ensembles that enchant tourists with romantic melodies in Piazza San Marco will have to decrescendo or pack up their instrument cases for good.

A judge has given the small orchestras of the piazza’s four historic cafes 10 days in which to lower their volume.

If not, the city will confiscate the bandstands which draw thousands of customers to the cafes’ outdoor tables between April and October.

The ultimatum was prompted by complaints this summer from some of the piazza’s merchants.

``I have to scream with my clients because they play at such high levels,″ said Paola Cazzavillan, owner of a jewelry store next to Lavena cafe.

Judge Sara Natto issued her order after tests showed that the music in the piazza exceeds 65 decibels, the limit for daytime noise levels, said Adriano Girardi, manager of Quadri cafe.

Managers of the cafes argue that their musicians don’t use amplifiers, so reducing volume will mean cutting the size of their bands or eliminating them altogether.

``We don’t have a rock band. We play soft, classical music to create a peaceful, romantic atmosphere,″ said Roberto Comin, a manager of Florian, the piazza’s best-known cafe.

``It’s other noises _ the public applauding _ that raises the decibel level,″ Comin said.

Besides being a Venetian tradition, the tender melodies help sweeten pricey beverages of the piazza’s cafes. Without the ensembles, the cafes claim business would falter.

For now, managers hope the affair will blow over, or that new sound tests will result in lower decibels.

Says Comin: ``We’ll play as always, we’ll just try to play a little more softly.″

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