Over the past few days the international media has been flooded with articles claiming that Venice was about to separate from Italy and become a sovereign state.
Beyond the sensationalistic headlines of Russia Today, the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph (to name a few), which compared the Venice case to the much more serious Crimea referendum, it is incorrect to speak about a referendum.
Venice is not going to become an independent state any time soon. The procedure to hold a referendum in Italy is rather complex and requires, among other things, a decree issued by the president of Italy.
That has not happened in the case of Venice.
As explained in the Corriere del Veneto, two bills which aim to consult Venetians on secession have been presented to pariament. As the bills await approval, supporters of independence have turned to social media in order to raise interest and get a consensus.
Venetians have been therefore asked to vote online to express their opinion regarding a possible separation. Rather than a referendum, this was a mere consultation. It has no legal weight.
The president of the region of Venice, Luca Zaia, said: "I support any initiative in this direction but I do not sign anything because for me it counts only what is actually discussed in the regional council. I do not want to delude Venetians."
Vice Italia News Editor Leonardo Bianchi told IBTimes UK that the consultation not only had no legal value, but also violated the constitution.
"The Italian constitution, although it recognises local autonomies, defines the republic as 'one and indivisible'," he said.
"We are in front of a mere online consultation organised by a small group of 'independentists', who are claiming figures which are unverifiable," he said. Around 700,000 Venetians have allegedly voted in favour of a separation.
Bianchi dismissed the situation as "clowning".
"The only consequence might be that the regional council of Venice could re-take into consideration the bill which proposes the possibility of having a consultative referendum not only at national level but also at regional level," Bianchi said.
"However, we should not undervalue the political meaning of this consultation: independentist sentiments are very strong in Venice, especially in a situation characterised by a six-year-long financial crisis."