Residents of Venice will vote before the end of the year on whether the historic centre of the city should be separated from its other mainland and less touristy districts.

A picture of St. Mark's Basilica taken from above at sunset, with golden light washing over the building
The referendum was first proposed by a popular initiative of citizens © Pete Seaward / Lonely Planet

The referendum, proposed by the president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, will take place on 1 December and ask residents of the city whether or not they want the metropolitan area of the famous canals city to be split into two autonomous municipalities - the lagoon area of Venice on one side and the mainland area of Mestre on the other.

Learn more about Mestre’s new interactive museum

This referendum will be the fifth on the matter, after four previous ones which saw a decisive majority of “no” votes. There have been some questions on the legality of the referendum, but a new decision by the Italian Consiglio di Stato declared that residents have a right to express their opinion in administrative matters that affect them as closely as this one. Only residents of Venice (around 260,000 people) will be allowed to vote instead of all the citizens of the larger metropolitan area (around 853,000 thousand).

A picture of gondolas tied up by one of Venice's canals
If the referendum passes, then talks will begin to decide which one of the two cities will be the main city of the region © Catarina Belove / Shutterstock

It’s not hard to guess that one of the reasons behind this referendum is the mass tourism that Venice always experiences and has tried to manage multiple times. While the city centre receives more than 20 million visitors per year, the mainland area is often overlooked - both in terms of tourism and financially, since most resources are poured into the historic area of Venice to help sustain it. This way, according to the promoters of the referendum, both areas of the city would be able to choose independently where to invest their finances.

How Venice deals with mass tourism

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