Tourism gone wild in Venice? The City bans scooters.


Instead of controlling the flow of tourists in the historic center (and the proliferation of B&Bs) they want to prevent even the elderly from stopping on steps.

By Gian Antonio Stella

Children on scooters, beware!! The new rules for decorum in Venice are a little severe in places. You can bring a Transatlantic cruise ship of 96 tons into the Canale della Giudecca, but not a kayak. It is prohibited. Likewise your kids cannot go around with “push cycles” unless it is in certain places and at certain hours. Exhausted tourists, then must choose their routes well: it will be forbidden to lean on walls and steps. They’ll have to rest on their feet. It is clear that, suffocated by a mass tourism that is ever more invasive, la Serenissima has a serious need for new rules. These should also be imposed with a sacrosanct severity on the behavior of those visitors who day after day offend the city and its inhabitants (whose numbers have dropped to just over 53,000: one third of how many there were half a century ago). They act in ways that nobody would dare in the heart of Manhattan, London or Singapore. Women who urinate on the banks between the gondolas, fathers who let their babies poop in piazza San Marco, “alternatives” who use the fountains as a bidet, gorging on plates and bowls and pans while seated on the ground in the campos, diving from the bridges despite the laws that ban this, bicycles with tires in the style of Las Vegas, nudists under the sotoporteghi, garbage everywhere, and fake courtesans (or perhaps not…). It is unsupportable.

The “Index of tourism pressure”

There is a graphic, in the book “Govern tourism, organize the city”, edited by Roberta Baroloni, Gianni Fabbri, Franco Migliorini and Giuseppe Tattara, that says it all. It shows the “index of tourism pressure” experienced by Venice from 1953 to 2015 – a diagonal razor slash, from low to high. There are those who will say: excellent, it’s raining money! In reality, writes the economist Tattara, who has already demonstrated how the cruise ship industry is not a great benefit to Venetians, there is an “clear conflict” between the interests of the residents who still live in Venice and the out of control hordes of tourists. Crushing the city under such a high index of tourism pressure “equal to 10.34, much higher than 6.28 in Firenze and 3.14 in Rome”, asserts the professor, these human floods are a problem that prompt a question: is it worth it? A “true excursionist” (or as we call them ‘daytrippers’) spend around 25 Euro per capita in the city, a “partial excursionist” (who takes a room near the city) “around 40 Euro, while a tourist who stays overnight in the city spends close to 220 Euro daily”. Further: “If overnight stay tourists are 1/3 of the visitors, the money they spend is about 70% of the total tourist spending, and the spending of the day visitors makes up the remaining 30%”. But “the space taken up” by the two categories is very similar, as is obvious”.

The optimal value

It goes without saying that Venice “therefore has very big problem, larger than what is happening in other “cities of art”; that is the problem of free riding, which means a large number of people who are not paying for a service that they are however taking advantage of”. It is not a question of rich yes, poor now: it is a question of management. A study authored by the Dutch Jan van der Borg and Venetian Paolo Costa, who later became Mayor of Venice and then the president of “Port Venice”, estimated the optimal limit for tourist visits to the city to be “20,750 people a day, which is equivalent to 7.5 million per year, and a maximum sustainable limit of 12 million per year”. With that roof blown off by the current 28 million, Costa expressed his concern two years ago: “The surpassing of the sustainable limits of tourism produces, in a historic urban setting that by definition cannot expand, the much more serious phenomenon, the displacement of every non tourism related activity, residence and above all productivity. Every day an apartment becomes a bed and breakfast, a palazzo becomes a hotel, a shop becomes a restaurant”. Without serious interventions, then, the future is a city “of attractions and business that sell to tourists from around the world. Without Venetians to get in the way”.

The new regulations

What does this new set of regulations, proposed to the City Council, say? “In order to secure the decorum of the inhabited centers we will proceed with Expulsion from the city for those who: see to their personal hygiene or their physical needs in public places; consume food or drink in such a way as to impede normal foot traffic; lie down on the benches or camp in the public transportation stops; dive or swim in any of the waters of the urban center; bathe feet on the edges of the canals and waterways; camp illegally…”. These are for the most part sensible things; all the more so in a city that is somewhat out of hand. But does it make sense to have a complete ban on “sitting or lying down on the ground, on the steps of the bridges and of the monuments, thus constituting an obstacle to the free circulation of pedestrians”? If two elderly people can’t walk any more, do they have to just have to stop and stand there? And if acqua alta arrives is it really “forbidden to use surf boards or similar equipment” in the flooded areas? Surf?! And is it seriously necessary to warn in writing that “those who walk in the flooded areas” must take “care to not splash the water, especially when passing by other pedestrians”?

Hours and age limits

And then there is the (correct) prohibition of skateboards, hoverboards and Segways: not in Venice, thanks! But why allow “bicycles and scooters ridden by children age 10 or younger”, but only if they stay away from “San Marco, Rialto, campo San Bortolomio, campo San Salvador, campo San Luca, campo San Fantin…” and then only within certain hours? They are already quite few, the children of Venice: do they also have to behave like adults so that they don’t bother the tourists? The closing statement regarding sequestered scooters or bikes is unforgettable: “Once restitution has been completed, ownership of the item will need to be demonstrated in the proper way”. With proof of registration in scooter school…

Bans in piazza San Marco

There is a ban not only on “music reproduction equipment” (including those installed on boats) but also a ban in piazza San Marco on “musical instruments, including those not amplified, and the performance of songs or dances”. If the kayaks disturb the waves of the motorboats, a violin could disturb the (authorized) bands playing at the cafes… To be charitable, it will not be easy to bring back order, decorum and serenity in a fragile city that is worn down by the bacchanal of mass tourism. But wouldn’t it be more important, as they are doing in other cities, to stop the opening of new hotels and “fish & chips” and to limit the incessant growth of new B&B that are pushing out the “venessiani de Venessia”?

Source: Corriere della Sera, 19 September 2018

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