Every year, the acqua alta floods the streets of Venice – a phenomenon caused by high tides and a warm scirocco wind blowing across the Mediterranean.
At a similar frequency, Italian government officials spout hot air about Venice’s tourism problem – prompting a flood of discussion across social media.
This week, the proposal came from Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who made curbing tourist numbers in the city a priority when he was elected in 2015. In an interview with the city’s Corriere del Veneto newspaper, he made the case for charging day-trippers entry into the floating city.
“The solution is obvious: those who live, work or have a place to sleep in the city can enter, the others must stay away,” he said.
“The mayor must have power to close the city off on crowded days,” he argued. “Several ideas have been proposed to the government, we now hope they decide to help Venice.”
Our expert’s view | Will an entry fee solve Venice’s problems?
By Kiki Deere
This has been an ongoing issue for some time, and residents are well and truly fed up of the throngs of tourists.
It’s not just the number of tourists, but it’s their behaviour too: drunken tourists jumping off bridges, people laying out picnics in squares and on the pavements. But will charging day trippers solve the issue?
Difficult to say. Firstly, 5, 10 or 20 euros (for example) will barely make a difference, as tourists will pay that to enter the city. Should they charge extortionate amounts (perhaps like Bhutan does, charging tourists US$200–250 a day) to really control the flow of tourists? That may work.
There are other issues that also need to be addressed. Historic buildings have been converted into luxurious hotels, and shops in the historical centre (with the odd exception) mostly sell souvenirs and items aimed at tourists. The city lives off tourism. Something needs to be done – and something has got to give.
I was in Venice exactly a year ago in April and strolling the historical centre was nearly unbearable, and it wasn’t even high season yet. Throngs of tourists pushing and shoving their way down narrow streets, gondolas nearly colliding on the water, vaporetti overflowing with people.
A previous visit to the city during the month of January was wonderful, with a few tourists in town but no more than one would expect in any major Italian city. I remember strolling around Cannaregio, exploring back alleys that were nearly devoid of tourists.
Cruise ships have been another major problem for some time. I’ll never forget glancing down a canal and catching a glimpse of a monstrous cruise liner descending on the city. It was terrifying.
The statement comes after a busy Easter weekend, during which two Swiss tourists were reported to have been seen dancing naked at a fountain near Rialto Bridge. More than 125,000 visitors visited Venice on Easter Sunday and just under 100,000 on Easter Monday.
This isn’t the first time someone has suggested charging entry into the city. In 2014, Italy’s undersecretary of culture, Ilaria Borletti, told the Telegraph. “Venice is slowly dying of tourism, suffocated by summer tourists who eat and run, leaving little or nothing to the city.
Venice | In numbers
- 25–30 millionannual visitors
- 60–70000daily visitors
- 55000permanent residents
- 1–2mmrate Venice is sinking per year
- 697ADyear Venice was founded
- 435number of bridges
- 53cmnarrowest street (in Canneregio)
“For this reason I think we have to protect this city. We should think seriously about the introduction of an entry ticket.”
Alternative measures have been proposed. Last year, Venice’s councillor for urban planning, Massimiliano De Martin, mooted a plan to prevent new holiday accommodation from opening up in the city centre.
A handful of proposals to curb mass tourism have materialised, including a “locals first” policy for its water buses. Government officials also announced last year that large cruiseliners will be diverted away from the World Heritage City and dock at a terminal in the industrial port of Marghera on the mainland.
Last year city authorities launched its #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, which – among instructions such as to not set up camp or ride a bike through the city centre – said that tourists were “forbidden from standing without motivation”.
In 2016 tempers flared in Venice when protesters took to the water in boats to prevent cruise ships from passing through the lagoon. Relations between residents and visitors reached a nadir.
Venice isn’t the only city suffering from the impact of its own popularity. In a report last year, the WTTC said European hotspots including Budapest, Prague, Lisbon and Warsaw were suffering from one or more of the symptoms of overtourism.