From the New York Times:
VENICE — “You guys, just say ‘skooozy’ and walk through,” a young American woman commanded her friends, caught in one of the bottlenecks of tourist traffic that clog Venice’s narrow streets, choke its glorious squares and push the locals of this enchanting floating city out and onto drab, dry land. “We don’t have time!”
Neither, the Italian government worries, does Venice.
Don’t look now, but Venice, once a great maritime and mercantile power, risks being conquered by day-trippers.
The soundtrack of the city is now the wheels of rolling luggage thumping up against the steps of footbridges as phalanxes of tourists march over the city’s canals. Snippets of Venetian dialect can still be heard between the gondoliers rowing selfie-snapping couples. But the lingua franca is a foreign mash-up of English, Chinese and whatever other tongue the mega cruise ships and low-cost flights have delivered that morning. Hotels have replaced homes.
Italian government officials, lamenting what they call “low-quality tourism,” are considering limiting the numbers of tourists who can enter the city or its landmark piazzas.
“If you arrive on a big ship, get off, you have two or three hours, follow someone holding a flag to Piazzale Roma, Ponte di Rialto and San Marco and turn around,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, who lamented what he called an “Eat and Flee” brand of tourism that had brought the sinking city so low.
“The beauty of Italian towns is not only the architecture, it’s also the actual activity of the place, the stores, the workshops,” Mr. Franceschini added. “We need to save its identity.”
The city’s locals, whatever is left of them anyway, feel inundated by the 20 million or so tourists each year. Stores have taken to putting signs on the windows showing the direction to St. Mark’s Square or Ponte di Rialto, so people will stop coming in to ask them where to go.
The majority of the anxiety has centered on the cruise ships that pass through the Giudecca Canal, blotting out the landmarks like an eclipse blocking out the sun. (The one shown here isn’t even a big one.)
Some of the roughly 50,000 Venetians who remain in the city, down from about 175,000 in 1951, have organized associations against the “Big Ships,” selling T-shirts that show cruise boats with shark teeth threatening fishermen. In June, almost all the 18,000 Venetians who voted in an unofficial referendum on the cruise ships said they wanted them out of the lagoon.
“One problem is the ships,” said Mr. Franceschini, who called their passage in front of St. Mark’s Square “an unacceptable spectacle.”
But the ships bring in money, and since Venice is not the trading power of yore, it needs all the euros it can get. The cruise ships don’t just bring fees into the city, they also create jobs down a whole supply chain, benefiting mechanics, waiters and water taxis. The gondoliers who change into their striped shirts early in the morning and put sunscreen on their bald heads have steady work
When a visitor, or at least this visitor, arrives at the Venice train station and encounters that iconic watery avenue, a strange sensation occurs of being in the Las Vegas version of Venice rather than in the real thing. Maybe it’s all the luggage, the shopping bags, the lack of Italians.
To read the rest of this article click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/europe/venice-italy-tourist-invasion.html