Film stars stun Venice with spaghetti breakfasts

Hollywood's prima-donna stars have been revamping Italian food culture by ordering spaghetti for breakfast at Venice film festival, one chef has revealed. Meanwhile, others have been delighting fans with fancy dress, karaoke parties and even an engagement.

Film stars stun Venice with spaghetti breakfasts
It is unknown whether Scarlett Johansson has a spaghetti breakfast, but the star did surprise fans when she hit the read carpet wearing an engagement ring. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Behind the scenes on the Lido island – where holidaymakers wander up from the beach in swimming costumes to mingle with international filmmakers – chefs rustle up fried oysters, lobster risotto and tiramisu on request for VIPs.

"This year at the festival I've had many requests for spaghetti with clams at breakfast," Antonino Sanna, chef at the luxury Excelsior hotel, told Il Gazzettino daily, adding "one star, who I won't name, wants it every morning."

The odd approach to Italian cuisine has been on show ever since the festival opened on August 28th.

At the Excelsior's beach-side dinner party on the festival's opening night, black-tie guests joining George Clooney devoured the quiche, ham and mussels so quickly that late arrivals went without, but were handed strawberries and Moet champagne to swig in the surf.

"I fear everything has been gobbled up by interlopers," complained an Italian starlet, before racing off to one of the many fancy-dress parties thrown in the canal city.

By night, the terraces and beaches of the floating city are flooded with free champagne as socialites and paparazzi ooze around the latest arrivals, from Clooney to Nicolas Cage, Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson.

Blonde Johansson, who stars in Under the Skin as a man-eating alien, propelled screaming fans into overdrive this week when she appeared on the red carpet wearing not only a black Versace gown but what looked like an engagement ring.

Her publicist later confirmed her engagement to journalist Romain Dauriac.

The hysteria almost matched the scenes of chaos when Daniel Radcliffe – aka "Harry Potter" – arrived, sparking a stampede of fans along the beach-front before the ex-wizard went on to star at a kitsch karaoke party he had requested.

The 24-year-old British actor, who brought his parents with him to Venice, had to be rescued after admirers pushed their way into the bathroom with him.

In the darkened cinemas just across the way however, the focus has been on depression, despair and loneliness, as protagonists have been driven to have sex with dead bodies, maim others or kill themselves.

Director James Franco presented Child of God, based on the real serial killer that inspired Silence of the Lambs. US actor Scott Haze slept alone in caves to prepare for his role as a cross-dressing maniac.

Xavier Dolan's Canadian Tom on the Farm has one character chased and strangled in a corn field.

And David Gordon Green's brutal Joe explores the father and son relationship against a backdrop of alcoholism, rape and murder.

Stephen Frears's tragi-comic Philomena, about of a mother's search for her son after he is given up for adoption by nuns, is the only feel-good movie.

Amid all the doom and gloom, it is also the critics' favourite to win.

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Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.