Venice City Council will set limits on the numbers of day-trippers who can enter the city and charge entrance fees

A ‘traffic jam’ of gondolas in Venice

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro announced on 30 May 2022 that Venice City Council will begin experimenting with bookings for day-trippers to enter Venice this July using this website: https://www.veneziaunica.it/en/content/how-it-works. He declared that this will not yet be obligatory to book to enter the city. Instead, day-trippers who book from 1 August 2022 thirty days before visiting Venice will be offered discounts and concessions during their visits. Day-trippers who do not book a City Pass will have to pay higher prices for public transport and visiting many sites. From 16 January 2023, day-trippers will be required to pay a fee to enter Venice of €3, €6, €8 or €10 per person.

Some people will be exempt from payment, including students studying in the city, residents of Venice and their relatives and commuters who work in Venice. Residents of the Venice region (Veneto) will also not need to pay but will be required to book to enter the city. People who have booked to stay overnight in tourist accommodation will not pay the entrance fee as they already pay a tourist tax to the City Council, which is charged through the accommodation. Here are more details about who will not need to pay for day trips (in Italian): https://www.ilgazzettino.it/nordest/venezia/venezia_a_pagamento_prenotazione_chi_non_deve_pagare_ticket_ingresso_residenti_veneto_contributo_d_accesso-6789962.html

Initially, there will be random checks to see if day-trippers have a QR code indicating if they have booked or paid the entrance fee. If day-trippers are checked and have not booked they will be issued fines of between €50 and €300 and legally reported as set out here (in Italian): https://www.ilgazzettino.it/nordest/venezia/venezia_a_pagamento_ticket_turisti_come_funziona_chi_deve_pagare_piattaforma_online_per_prenotare_visita-6787738.html?refresh_ce

Yet the Council has asked for international bids and proposals for turnstiles or gates to be constructed and placed at entry points to the city. Indeed, turnstiles have been previously set up to restrict the movement of people in parts of the city. Protests were held against these turnstiles and some were vandalised. Venice City Council has not learnt that restricting the freedom of people to move around provokes anger. Furthermore, the Council intends to set booking limits on the total number of day-trippers on different days with a total of 40,000 or fewer quoted in this article explaining the plans (in Italian): https://www.ilgazzettino.it/nordest/venezia/venezia_tassa_accesso_turisti_quando-6723775.html?refresh_ce

Effectively, when these limits on the number of day-trippers are in place, the freedom of more people to enter the city will be denied. Essentially, this will change Venice from a city into a gated community. For years it has been claimed that Venice risks becoming Disneyland on the sea due to invasions of tourists: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/europe/venice-italy-tourist-invasion.html

Setting limits and fees to enter makes Venice more like a theme park than a city. Claims that tourism was leading to the death of Venice proliferated long before the COVID-19 lockdowns. But these lockdowns that stopped tourism to Venice contributed to the widespread closure of businesses in the city, including many which were indirectly supported by tourism.

After large numbers of tourists visited Venice over Easter weekend, Mayor Brugnaro described booking reservations and entry fees as “the right way forward”: https://www.ansa.it/english/news/lifestyle/arts/2022/04/19/venice-tourists-will-have-to-book-from-this-summer_df908c66-a00a-45b0-b8fe-17f59664f061.html 140,000 people visited Venice on Easter Sunday and 100,000 on Easter Monday. Venice City Council responded by announcing that bookings to enter the city would be necessary in June 2022 before backtracking in May: https://www.euronews.com/travel/2022/05/23/exclusive-venice-u-turns-on-overtourism-tax-this-summer-despite-record-visitor-numbers

Even before the number of residents in the historical centre of Venice fell below 50,0000 in late May 2022 and large numbers of tourists returned, headlines suggested the city was “overwhelmed by tourists”: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/04/world/europe/venice-tourism-surveillance.html

My experience of being in the city recently is that at times, especially during weekends, it does get very crowded although the majority of day-trip visitors appear to be Italians. But I reject Brugnaro’s “way forward” with entry limits and fees. Instead, there are many alternative ways to improve the city for all its users and reduce crowds. These are set out in my ten-point proposal to develop Venice in my book about the city: https://dstandish.com/book-information-for-venice-in-environmental-peril-myth-and-reality/

These proposals are still relevant today and include constructing an underwater train subway system to move people and goods around the city more efficiently and with less pollution than boat traffic creates. It was pleasing to read an article published in Corriere del Veneto on 31 May 2022 by former Venice Mayor Paolo Costa. He argued that the subway which he supported would have meant Venice would not still be dependent on obsolete water transport: https://www.pressreader.com/italy/corriere-del-veneto-vicenza-e-bassano/20220531/281509344816568

We also need to retain some historical perspective on crowding in Venice. The historical centre had a population of 174,808 in 1951 compared with just below 50,000 now. 180,000 people lived in the city in the early sixteenth century and it was a crowded and often dirty place. St. Marks Square in central Venice is now kept fairly clean even when it is busy. In the eighteenth century, St. Mark’s Square was often littered with moneychangers, preachers, jugglers, cluttered stalls, chicken coops, garbage and even urine. On the eve of Ascension day in 1775, 42,480 visitors arrived in Venice in addition to many others who had come to the city in the preceding days.

Venice does get very crowded, but it is much more pleasant than it was in past centuries. Moreover, crowding can be addressed with an underwater train subway system and other measures which keep the city free and open. Limiting the number of day-trippers and charging them is not the way forward.

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