Armed guards, rising waters and entrance fees: Venice’s tourist woes start again
At the start of the pandemic, city planners and environmentalists spoke about how the lack of tourists was a good opportunity to hit the pause button and reimagine how cities are used. What is a good car / person ratio? How many tourists are enough? And when residents feel excluded from the city’s resources, who should have access to famous thoroughfares and when?
It is an idea to which the mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago is committed. Now a candidate for the presidency of France in April 2022, she has pledged to keep the streets car-free and this week imposed a speed limit of 30 km / h (18 mph) on all Parisian streets except the peripheral-the main ring road surrounding Paris and major highways such as the Champs-Elysées. It also plans to cut 60,000 parking spaces (out of 140,000) in its attempt to make Paris more pedestrian-friendly.
Venice also had big plans. Campaigns to ban cruise ships from entering the Grand Canal appeared to have shifted the public conversation a bit more towards conservation, especially after a cruise ship crashed into the Giudecca Canal in June 2019. And this month is the first month since cruise ships were finally banned. because of the damage they cause to the 100 small islands and the foundations on which Venice is built.
This week, however, its tourists were reported by CNN to be back for good, with up to 80,000 arriving in Venice each day, according to local media. Armed guards were brought in to manage the crowds at key stops, such as Rialto on the Grand Canal and San Zaccaria (for St. Mark’s Square). The problem has worsened as boats can only fill up to 80% of their capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, driving the crowds crazy.
For years, some local councilors have been calling for an entrance fee to control the daily flow of tourists and protect local services for residents. In 1965 the population was 122,000, but it is now 54,000 because most people cannot afford local housing. Finally, it looks like it could happen. Free time reported that an entry fee would begin in summer 2022. Turnstiles will be placed at key points throughout the city and visitors will pay between € 3 ($ 3.5) in low season and € 10 ($ 12 ) in high season – people staying in city hotels do not need to pay.
The conservation of the city is of considerable urgency and continues to deteriorate every year. Dark Atlas reported on St. Mark’s Basilica, a Byzantine church built 900 years ago and unfortunately on one of the lowest points in Venice – it is very prone to flooding, it occurs regularly and is expected to get worse (the sea level is expected to rise 55 inches with storm surges of 98 inches by 2100). In 2019, there were 25 “exceptional” high tides in Venice, defined as greater than 110 centimeters (43 inches). Salt water obviously attacks ancient relics, mosaics and columns. And the bad news is that Venice’s current flood defenses will certainly not be enough.