Repopulating Venice. By Giuseppe Tattara and Gianni Fabbri


Giuseppe Tattara and Gianni Fabbri, authors of the recently published “Manage tourism and organize the city” offer their ideas for bringing residents back to Venice in this essay.

Repopulating Venice

By Giuseppe Tattara and Gianni Fabbri

A concrete proposal for transforming part of the tourist rentals into medium term residential rentals and to curb the touristification of Venice, restoring livability and economic opportunity beyond the tourism industry.

During the last weekend of September of this year 17 cruise ships docked at the Marittima Station, of which 6 were larger than 70 tons, and each of which carried an average of 2700 passengers. Adding the passengers of the smaller ships who also disembark, a wave of 50,000 cruise passengers and crew members was unloaded in the city, a number roughly equal to the entire residential population in the historic center. To these numbers we can add the 50 – 60,000 excursionists who visit the city any weekend in September.

Running counter to this trend, a few weeks ago there was alarm over the fact that the average amount a tourist spends in the city is in constant decline, and that the hotels were seeing a drop in reservations. These are dangerous signals of a distorted outcome of this city’s attractiveness to global tourism.

Today the number of day excursionists not only exceeds those who stay overnight – which in itself is a sign of the deterioration in the quality of tourism – but actually exceeds both the overnight guests and the residents combined. It is a tsunami which lowers the quality of services (stores, food, transportation) which adjust to this wave and end up predominantly serving the demands of tourists passing through (and a cruise ship passenger is an excursionist). It makes no sense to say that so many tourists benefit the city’s economy because they represent higher demand (the “full refrigerator” of the Mayor) without asking about the quality of the contents. Is it full of potatoes or porcini mushrooms?

In these conditions the pursuit of policies that grow the numbers of tourists, as if “it’s enough to fill the refrigerator”, equates to harming the city.

What are needed, instead, are measure that can reverse the trend of decline of tourism, and save what shreds remain of the social cohesion of the city, which also remains. We can take as an example the many citizens who gathered on the riva delle zattere and on hundreds of boats, demonstrating in the canale della Giudecca against the passage of the cruise ships. Can we think of a different policy for tourism?

Above all the city needs young energy, and bringing youth to an “old” city can only be done by bringing in new blood from the outside by fully leveraging the city’s extraordinary attractiveness. We think of artists, students, researchers, of those who do work related to the sea, restoration, erosion, lagoons, and those who works in fields for which the city has a clear “historic and natural” advantage. We think of a Biennale that brings together the worthwhile expository and documentary work with an art workshop, to incentivize and help bring young people to live here; this can be done especially now because the Biennale controls a large part of Arsenale. We think of the many foreign universities who frequently look to foreign campuses to help their students in becoming world citizens, joining study with living in another country and the encounter with another reality.

We must aim for the gradual transformation of some of the tourist rentals in to medium term rentals for residents, those who work in fields for which Venice holds a specific attraction, and who have a resident’s needs and expenses. As far as housing goes the resources are there. Today in Venice a daily average of at least 30-40,000 people rent a room, and the number of apartments in use for tourists is over 5,000. Can we not direct 20% of the listings for such properties to the young classes of residents? Can we not experiment with limits and incentives for these rentals using measures that have already been implemented in all the major cities? Berlin, Paris, Madrid, London, Amsterdam, NYC, San Francisco and of course Barcelona? We lower the maximum number of days for a tourist rental (as has been done all of the aforementioned cities), we create a category of temporary resident with tax and fee benefits, we finally control the extensive tax evasion in tourist rentals and we collect the hotel tax (raised) at the source, and the change in the rental market will follow. Berlin limited the tourist rental of “entire apartments”, and with this measure saw 8,000 units return to the residential market, 1/3 of the stock. Certainly all this can be done after we have first seen to the crucial renting out of the empty public housing units, better if in the form of self-restoration, without any expenditure of public money (which always is lacking), and here too in Venice we can open a path with types of self-restoration which are very interesting, already in practice and which should be evaluated.

Our goal is the share a vision of the city that is different from what it is today. If we destroy the life of the city, we destroy the heritage that was bequeathed us, but we also destroy the experience of the life of Venice that a visitor can have, and so we give up the most dynamic, rich and interesting part of that very flow of tourists, which will instead be attracted and valued in every way.

Bibliographic Reference:

Giuseppe Tattara and Gianni Fabbri authors, with R. Bartolini and F. Migliorini, “Manage tourism and organize the city”, 2018

Source: 15 October 2018


4 thoughts on “Repopulating Venice. By Giuseppe Tattara and Gianni Fabbri

  1. Your arguments are well expressed. What can we, as visitors who stay for 3/4 weeks a year, do to help improve the sad situation?


    1. Thanks for your comment. I should hasten to clarify that the arguments are those of the authors who originally published in Italian. I’m just the translator! As to what you can do as long term visitors – I’ll tell you that you are the type of visitors the city needs most. It’s the day visitors who swarm in from the cruise ships and mainland who are doing the most damage and leaving little behind other than garbage and an increasing flood of cheap take out food places that serve them.

      The main thing that comes to mind, and that is apropos of this article, is to avoid using AirBnB. Also avoid spending money on trinkets in tourist shops. If you want to really help with where you spend your money while you visit and you have a kitchen, buy some fish at the Rialto Fish Market! They, as other articles I have posted demonstrate, can really use the business, and you’ll be participating in a tradition/institution dating back 1,000 years.

      Thanks for caring about Venice.


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