Venice is just one major European city that has been brainstorming new ways to continue to welcome visitors while avoiding the worst excesses of overtourism. However, a new experiment has proved unpopular with residents.
Turnstiles were put in place at Piazzale Roma to act as checkpoints on Saturday morning. While residents were able to move freely, when certain areas got too packed, police had the power to turn tourists away and direct them to alternative routes, in a kind of segregation between locals and visitors.
The new measures were put in place in preparation for the huge number of tourists expected over the bank holiday weekend as an experiment, with Mayor Luigi Brugnaro citing safety concerns in the historic centre. The peak of people traffic is expected on 1 May, a public holiday in Italy, and there has already been serious overcrowding issues over the Easter weekend this year.
While officials said the measures were put in place primarily to protect the residents, it appears to have backfired as the turnstiles were dismantled by a group of local protestors on Sunday. With chants of “Venice is not a fun fair” and “free Venice”, they took the checkpoints apart, later posting the videos on social media. While the checkpoints have since been reinstalled, the protestors say this is not the end of the debate.
They argue that the mayor’s policies were not addressing the real issue in the Venice and they made speeches and please for “effective housing policies” instead of checkpoints and segregation. The local population of the historic centre has fallen to a low of just 55,000 people and, with daily visitors sometimes clocking up to 60,000, the situation has driven up the cost of living and put the city’s fragile infrastructure under enormous pressure.
In recent years local officials have come up with several suggestions to ease the pressure of overcrowding, such as diverting big cruise ships away from the city centre and considering a ban on new hotels. Yet progress on the issue appears to be slow, with many residents saying it doesn’t go far enough.
In the meantime, if you’re planning to make the trip, you can check out some tips on travelling sustainably to Venice or a local’s guide to some of the best spots you may not know about.