Luigi Brugnaro, Venice’s newly elected mayor, is starting his mayoralty off with a bang. First, within weeks of his election in June, he banned 49 books covering topics like homosexuality and disability from the city’s schools. And now, he’s planning to clamp down on one of the city’s major industries: tourism.
We may not be fans of the former poltitcal decision, but in some ways, the latter makes a lot of sense. Venice receives a phenomenal number of tourists: around 27m visitors darken its doorstep every year, dwarfing the city’s 270,000-strong population.
Meanwhile, the city is struggling under a raft of infrastructure woes. As we all know, it’s gradually sinking into the Adriatic sea, and reports from 2012 suggest that the city could be sinking much faster than researchers originally believed. On top of that, the city’s boat-based transport system and narrow walkways are literally creaking under the pressure of all those feet. It’s a lot easier to fit more people onto London’s Oxford Street than onto a finite number of canal ferries.
So, as Brugnaro explained in an interview with news agency DPA, he is planning to limit tourist access to “delicate” sites like St Mark’s Square. Locals and longer-term visitors would have automatic access, while daytrippers, who seem the main target of Brugnaro’s ire, would need to book their places in advance. He also hopes to build “priority lanes” which would allow Venetians to board the city’s ferries, or vaporettos, before tourists.
All in, ex-businessman Brugnaro, who claims to be “neither left nor right” wing, seems to want to halt the growth of the city’s tourist industry. As he told DPA:
We are full, we really can’t go beyond current numbers… I can imagine that everyone in the world, 7bn people, would like to see Venice at least once in their lives. Mathematically, that is just not possible.
Brugnaro’s harsh stance will probably go down well with tourist-weary locals. A piece of legislation from 2014, which imposes a 500 Euro fine on tourists with “noisy suitcase wheels“, hints at the sheer irritation felt by Venetians towards their endless stream of visitors. But whether it will go down so well with gondoliers and shop owners – those who rely on the industry for their livelihoods – is another question. Watch this space.