Soon, tourists visiting Venice will have to pay to get in as the famously over-touristed city becomes the first to introduce an entrance fee.
Starting January 16, 2023, day-trippers to Venice must purchase a ticket to enter, costing anything between €3 on quiet days and €10 on busy days.
The launch date for the new entry system was announced this weekend by Venice's councilor for tourism, Simone Venturini, who said it would help the Italian city tackle its overtourism problem.
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Overtourism has been a longstanding problem in Venice as visitors pile in faster than the medieval city's delicate infrastructure can cope. In the lead-up to the pandemic, Venice's struggle with overtourism reached a crisis point, with the city recording 30 million visitors in 2019 — with many entering for just one day.
That's why authorities have been looking at various measures, including a new booking system to regulate the number of people entering the city.
How to use Venice's pre-booking system
The system will require people to book a visit to Venice in advance. Once booked, visitors will receive a QR code that can be scanned at electric turnstiles at Venice's main access points.
The entry system will require day-trippers (people who don't stay overnight) to pay a single fee that could reach up to €10 (£8.30 / $10.44) at peak times, including summer. On quiet days it could drop to €3 ($3.13), but it will generally be around €6 ($6.80) during the off-season.
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"Those who book will receive incentives, such as discounts on entering museums. To determine the access fee, we will set a maximum threshold of 40,000 or 50,000 visitors a day," Venturini told La Repubblica
Who has to pre-book entry to Venice?
Day-trippers — those not staying in accommodation in Venice overnight — will need to pre-book. Residents and their relatives, children under six, and people staying at least one night in local hotels will not have to pay an entry fee. People with disabilities and those visiting the city for the day for health reasons or a sporting event are also exempt.
Venice's other measures to manage overtourism
The entrance fee is another cog in an ambitious and heavily monitored system that tracks the comings and goings of people in Venice. Last year, the council installed a network of cameras, sensors, and mobile phone data in the city to keep track of visitor numbers and information.
The idea is that if crowds start to build up in one tourist hotspot, authorities can temporarily restrict access until the crowds ease, diverting people elsewhere so as not to block pedestrian traffic. Officials say the tracking system gives them a clearer picture of the number of people passing through and allows them to predict when specific areas will get busy. They insist it's done "in absolute respect for privacy."
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Furthermore, Venice formally banned cruise ships from the historic city center last April after UNESCO warned the city about the "damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships." Large ships are now redirected to other ports such as Fusina and Lombardia to ease the pressure on Venice.