Venice is one of the few world heritage sites that perpetually runs the risk of vanishing completely. One problem is subsidence, which was catastrophic in the 1950s and 1960s. Subsidence not only causes Venice's monuments to crumble, but also leaves them more vulnerable to the Venetian Lagoon waters, which, thanks to the continued rise of global sea levels, encroach ever more frequently. Meanwhile, air pollution from the factories of Marghera and Mestre has stained and eaten away much of Venice's once distinctive bone-white pietra d'Istria (Istrian marble) until many buildings have become nearly as black as those in downtown Milan or Turin. Finally, the physical presence of far too many tourists has caused not only the social degradation of the city, but also its physical erosion. Restoration has become as dominant a theme in Venice as canals and bridges. It took a quarter century to restore the Basilica of San Marco in the mid-1800s and another fifteen years after that to take care of the Ducal Palace.
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