Venice has often been likened to an open-air museum - and starting next year, it might feel like one, too.
Last week, the councillors of La Serenissima announced that it will limit the number of visitors to its narrow streets and world famous piazzas. To regulate and control access, the city is introducing electronic turnstiles at numerous entry points, establishing a dedicated booking app, and charging an entrance fee of €3 to €10 (about $3.50 to $11.80) for anyone visiting for the day (costs vary by season). Residents, students, and commuters will be exempt from the charge, as will travelers who book stays in local hotels.
The measure is the latest effort to preserve Venice’s fragile ecosystem, and curb its problem of overtourism. Of course, Venice was never designed to cope with the vast daily influx of visitors it receives these days. Indeed, the numbers are staggering.
In early August this year, 85,000 people passed through Venice’s remarkably beautiful city center (where the local population is only 55,000 - in a day! In 2019, there were peaks of 110,000. Before the pandemic, around 30 million tourists arrived annually, 73 percent of which were daily visitors (including hoardes of cruise passengers) but only made 18 percent of its tourism revenues. Locals have long complained that day trippers, particularly those from cruise ships, simply want to get a selfie in St Marks Square and then go back to the ship for the 'all you can eat' buffet, rather than spending money in local shops, restaurants and bars.
Meanwhile, it's hardly surprising that 70 percent of Venetians have elected to move away from their home city in the past 70 years.
The objective of the turnstiles is to preserve Venice’s fragile ecosystem, and curb the overtourism. It follows the ban on large cruise ships that came into effect last month, and the recent decision by the Italian government to make the lagoon a national monument, so as to place it under enhanced state protection.
“We want to reposition Venice as a place people don’t just come to for a few hours, but experience for a few days, and with a deeper awareness of its urban, social, and cultural fabric,” says Simone Venturini, Venice’s Tourism Councilor. “By introducing a ticketing system we can limit crowds, shift away from the ‘day-tripper model’ that’s been so detrimental to the city, and hopefully win back the overnight guests that have stopped coming because of overtourism.”