Venice tourists number in the millions each year, and the city recently implemented a new plan to deal with the strain this tourism poses on its infrastructure. To separate tourists and locals within the city.
This past May Day weekend, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro introduced extraordinary measures to deal with expected overcrowding. These “urgent measures to ensure public safety, safety and livability in the historic city of Venice,” included turnstiles and checkpoints to manage traffic and redirect tourists away from locals.
There were also restrictions on tourist flow to popular landmarks such as the Piazzale Roma and the Strada Nuova. Certain areas were also only accessible to residents and regular visitors with a Venezia Unica card.
This idea to separate tourists and locals was described as an “experiment with a new tourism management system”. It comes amidst rising concerns about the negative effect of mass tourism. The increase in increase in the number of Airbnb homes is also seen to be driving out locals.
According to Andrea Carandini, head of the Italian Environment Fund, “Venice now has 50,000 inhabitants — a third of what it did in the 18th century — and yet it receives 30 million tourists a year.”
Anger At Plans to Separate Tourists and Locals
In spite of this, many locals angry at these measures. Protestors went so far as to dismantle turnstiles and checkpoints designed to separate locals from tourists.
Led by Tommaso Cacciari, protestors took apart checkpoints at the Piazzale Roma, with chants of “Venice is not a fun fair” and “free Venice”. Though they have since been reinstalled, it is not the end of the debate.
In a video posted online, protestor Marco Baravalle says that “It’s not the mayor who owns the city. It’s not the police or the tourists either,” continuing that “We refuse the idea of having checkpoints to get into the city. We own our city … The problem is not to limit entrance to tourists; the problem is to give more houses, more apartments to the Venetians and the people who want to live here. The mayor wants the city to become a city with no inhabitants.”
They argue that the mayor’s policies to separate tourists and locals did not address the real issue in the Venice saying, “We don’t need checkpoints, we need effective housing policies … Venice is not a theme park.”
Despite rising tensions between locals and tourists, protestors say that they will remove the barriers each time they are erected. Last summer, over 60,000 visitors descending on the city, swamping the resident population of just 55,000.
This recent demonstration merely magnified the storm that is brewing in Venice. With uncontrolled tourism, uncontrolled hospitality development, but zero infrastructure strategy for residents or the environment, Venetian residents feel a lack of respect and support in their own city.
While officials have made several suggestions, such as diverting big cruise ships, and a ban on new hotels, implementation is slow. In the meantime, those heading to Venice should look into traveling sustainably.