Venice will trial a ticketing system from spring next year, with day visitors charged €5 to enter the Italian city’s historic centre in an attempt to reduce tourist numbers.
The city’s council executive backed the move on Tuesday, just weeks after Unesco recommended Venice be added to its list of world heritage sites in danger, in part due to the impact of mass tourism.
Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, said: “Regulating tourist flows in certain periods is necessary, but that does not mean closing the city. Venice will always be open to everyone.”
Residents, commuters, students and children under the age of 14 will be exempt, as will tourists who stay in the city overnight, the local authority said in a statement.
“The objective is to discourage daily tourism in certain periods, in line with the fragility and uniqueness of the city,” it added.
The plan, which has long been mooted, must still be approved by the wider city council, which meets on 12 September. And many details are still unclear, including how many tickets will be available.
But the council executive on Tuesday agreed to a 30-day trial, likely spread out across public holidays and weekends in the spring and summer of 2024.
Simone Venturini, the city’s council member for tourism, said the new system will make Venicea “trailblazer on the global level”.
He said it was not about making money – with the proposed €5 fee only covering costs – but finding a “new balance between the rights of those who live, study or work in Venice, and those who visit the city”.
Authorities in Venice have for years sought to ease the pressure of the vast numbers of tourists who flock to see sights including the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square.
The ticketing plan has been repeatedly postponed over concerns it will seriously dent tourist revenue and compromise freedom of movement.
Two years ago, the city imposed a ban on large cruise ships, which dropped off thousands of visitors a day, rerouting them to an industrial port.
The ban was also aimed at reducing damage from large waves caused by the ships, which are eroding Venice’s foundations and harming the lagoon’s fragile ecosystem.
But the tourists still come, with about 3.2 million staying overnight in Venice’s historic centre last year, according to official data.
The United Nations cultural agency Unesco put Venice on its heritage list in 1987 as an “extraordinary architectural masterpiece”, but it has warned of the need for “more sustainable tourism management”.
On 31 July, it warned the city risked “irreversible” damage due to issues ranging from the climate crisis to mass tourism.
The recommendation that the city be added to its list of world heritage sites in danger will be discussed at a meeting of Unesco’s world heritage committee in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, later this month.
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