Thursday 24 January 2019

Venice bars the way against a rising tide of tourists

Tourist magnet: Venice
Tourist magnet: Venice

Nick Squires

Venice is to employ unprecedented crowd control measures to separate tourists from locals as the World Heritage city braces for this busy bank holiday weekend.

Tourists trying to reach the most popular landmarks - St Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge - will be diverted to visitor-only routes, away from 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 warm weather 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.

Tourist numbers are expected to peak between Saturday and Tuesday, which is a public holiday in Italy and many other countries.

"The tourist flows heading to Rialto or San Marco will be directed on alternative routes," the city council said.

Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor, signed a decree that contains "urgent measures to guarantee public safety, security and livability in the historic city of Venice".

Tourists who try to arrive by car from the Italian mainland may be blocked from using Ponte della Liberta, the one bridge that spans the lagoon. 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 mayor said the package of extraordinary measures was "maybe the first (of its kind) in Italy". The objective was to "manage pedestrian and water traffic and the flows of people". Mr Brugnaro said the measures were an "experiment", suggesting that they may be implemented again if successful.

They appeared to be a response to this year's long Easter weekend, when Venice was inundated with even more tourists than usual.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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