Venetians fear their beloved city is turning into a sort of Disneyland. And it took another step in that direction this weekend with the installation of turnstiles. These metal gates obviously took some time to make, to design, consider the space and the electronics to function with the CartaVenezia, the little card we all use to buy boat passes. And if you do not need a CartaVenezia because you walk everywhere, well you won’t be walking through certain areas.
The gates are to be activated only during peak holiday periods, like the 1st of May, the equivalent to the US Labor Day. The causeway over to Venice from Mestre (the mainland) will be closed to traffic when all parking places are full. The gates are currently located at the foot of the Calatrava bridge which you need to cross to get into Venice (well there is another way which they haven’t thought about yet). There is another set of turnstiles the beginning of Lista di Spagna diverting traffic from the train station away from Cannaregio and over the Scalzi bridge.
The gates were only announced on Wednesday by Mayor Brugnaro, giving no notice to locals or tour groups. Brugnaro and city offer this as solution to the crowding in the city to appease UNESCO who is threatening to take Venice off the World Heritage list without demonstrable progress in resolving the crowds and diminishing population of Venice. However, this ridiculous attempt to curb flows of tourist is in stark contrast to the Mayor and City Hall endorsement of the sale of islands of the lagoon to foreign hotel chains, the conversion of factories (on Murano) to hotels sold again to foreign investors, palazzo after palazzo also converted to hotels. It must be that Brugnaro feels UNESCO is blind and that this small trick will appease them.
But he got more than irritated tourists, the locals resent this “gated” community with tensions high on Sunday when a group of protesters crashed the gates.
Additionally, boat traffic was altered for tourist (mostly tour groups) arriving from the mainland, Pt Sabbione, Jesola, Chiogga or Tronchetto are diverted to Fondamente Nove, from their landing spots along the front of San Marco along the Riva degli Schiavoni to the opposite side of the islands, Fondamente Nove. This area which does dock many vaporetti overnight has little “sidewalk” space and is bound to cause a great deal of confusion. However, on the bright side, all my friends who own restaurants and bars along the Fondamente will be happy.
What is the answer? I do not know. Venice’s reputation and popularity are causing these problems. The declining population is due to the high cost of housing and lack of jobs outside the tourist industry for the young people. About 90% of the tourists are what the Venetians regard as a “poor quality” tourist, they arrive via tour staying 4-6 hours, and leave. Tourists from the boats rarely even eat ashore because the meals are part of the cruise, if they do, it is take-away which creates trash. Currently Venice processes trash to the landfill of a city 6 times it size. It lacks toilet facilities for the estimated 120,000 people who arrived in Venice on the Easter weekend.
The local group known as “gruppo25aprile” (April 25 is the date recognized as the founding of Venice) has some specific ideas on what to do.
- To stop the proliferation of new hotels for tourist use on both sides of the bridge: in Mestre alone, the new beds under construction are thousands.
- Stop the plan that provides for further sales of public properties, islands, palazzo that will probably become hotels;
- Take concrete measures to contain the day tourist from Jesolo and Cavallino which accounts for thousands of additional day tourists, instead of proposing (as it did) new direct connections from Jesolo which numbers in the millions in the summer from the camping facilities, RVs, etc.
- Consult the interested categories in advance (such as tourist guides, carriers such as Trenitalia and hoteliers) and city associations on long-term structural measures to plan upstream tourist flows, rather than improvising ordinances that are harmful to individual liberties ” valley “, when tourists are already in the city.
So what can you do? If you go to Venice, stay in a hotel, or an apartment. Be a good tourist, not rude, respect the elder (remember of the less than 60K people there a significant number are elderly and they have to go to the doctor, grocery store, hairdresser. Buy your food at the local grocery store. Eat at the local restaurants, drink at the local bar and buy authentic Murano Glass….if it is cheap, well it is NOT Murano.