Venice, Europe’s most populous destination is to employ unprecedented crowd control measures to separate international tourists from locals as the Europe’s major World Heritage city braces for a busy bank holiday weekend.
The tourists are trying to reach the most popular landmarks in Venice like St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. They will be diverted to visitor-only routes, away from long-suffering locals who have for years complained that their day-to-day lives are made a misery by the invasion of visitors.
With the arrival of summer in Italy and the tourist season in full swing in La Serenissima, as the maritime republic was once called, there are fears of severe congestion in the city’s narrow streets and alleyways.
The tourist numbers are expected to rise between Saturday and Tuesday, May 1, which is a public holiday in Italy and many other countries in Europe and Asia.
Luigi Brugnaro, the Mayor of Venice, signed a announcement which contains urgent measures to guarantee public safety, security and livability in the historic city of Venice.
The city council said that the tourist flow heading to Rialto or San Marco will be directed on alternative routes.
The tourists who try to arrive by car from the Italian mainland may be blocked from using the one bridge that spans the lagoon, the Ponte della Libertà.
The effect of mass tourism is so smothering that Venice has long debated the possibility of setting a limit on the number of visitors who can enter each day and the restriction on cars appears to be a step in that direction. The objective of the city council is to manage pedestrian and water traffic and the flows of people.
The mayor said the measures were an “experiment”, suggesting that they may be implemented again if successful. They appeared to be a response, in part, to this year’s Easter long weekend, when Venice was inundated with even more tourists than usual and visitors had to wait for up to an hour to board the city’s “vaporetto” water buses.
During this year’s Carnival, the city experimented with new technology, including laser sensors, to keep tabs on the huge crowds who descended on the city. In 2016 Venetians, the clutching suitcases and holdalls to symbolise exodus, staged a protest against the rapid depopulation of their city, warning that it risks turning into a cultural Disneyland unless drastic measures are taken.
The population of Venice has dipped below 55,000 which is an historic low and a sharp drop from the 190,000 who lived there at the end of the Second World War. Venice is not the only place in Europe that says tourists are threatening to extinguish the very thing they have come to see.