| MILAN, Italy, June 2
MILAN, Italy, June 2 Environmentalists on
Saturday urged film diva Sophia Loren to help stop a big cruise
ship named in her honour from ever entering the Venice lagoon
because of potential damage to the city and the lagoon's
The MSC Divina (Divine), which the actress christened last
month in France, is a 139,500-tonne ship that can carry 3,500
passengers and nearly 1,000 crew.
"We can't believe that you want your name, which is a legend
in Italy and the world, to be associated with a ship that
contributes to the destruction of Venice, part of humanity's
heritage," said on open letter from the group," called the No
Big Ships Venice Committee.
"We are asking you to give up your role as godmother of the
ship. Venice and the world would see that as a divine gesture.
Venice belongs to the world. Help us save it," the group said in
the letter to the Italian screen legend.
A handful of protesters held up a banner that read "No Big
Ships" as the Divina passed by St Mark's Square on Saturday.
Since the wreck of the Costa Concordia last January,
environmentalists have stepped their efforts to have large
cruise ships banned from the lagoon which surrounds the historic
centre of the canal city.
The Concordia capsized off the coast of the Tuscan island of
Giglio after it hit rocks. At least 30 people were killed and
two are still unaccounted for.
That disaster put the spotlight on the Venice lagoon,
perhaps Italy's most delicate maritime area, which big cruise
ships enter to drop off passengers conveniently close to the
historic centre and the Grand Canal.
The letter to Loren said the big ships pollute the air and
their vibrations and the lapping waves caused by the wakes of
their passage hurt the foundations of historic palaces and
"Venice and its lagoon are both world heritage sites and
risk an environmental disaster every day because of the passage
of these monsters of the sea," the letter said.
Italia Nostra (Our Italy), the country's leading
conservation group has also long been opposing the entry of
large cruise ships into the lagoon.
The Divina has a first-class suite named after Loren which
is decorated with large pictures of the Oscar-winning actress at
various stages of her film career.