Protests as Venice begins charging admission fees for day visitors

Venice, Italy

April 25 has long been a historic day in Venice – the date is not only Italy's Liberation Day, but also the feast day of the city's patron saint, Saint Mark.

But now Venice will get another dose of history on April 25 – the day it becomes the first city in the world to charge an entrance fee for day trippers.

Protests broke out at the start of the day, with local residents waving banners and holding up their passports, expressing their anger at the city being placed behind a park- or museum-style barrier. Pictures show clashes between police and some demonstrators.

Which is long awaited Access fees (designed as an “access contribution” rather than a ticket) It started at 8am on Thursday. The city council is running a pilot project until mid-July to see if it can get the system up and running.

Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

As of April 25, day visitors to Venice will have to pay a fee of five euros on certain days.

Anyone visiting Venice as a tourist for the day – except those who live in the local Veneto area – must pay a fee of €5 ($5.40) if arriving between 8am and 4pm.

Tourists who stay overnight do not have to pay, as the overnight tax is already added to their stay bills. However, they will also have to register their attendance to request a fee waiver. Basically, anyone entering the city on the dates the toll is imposed must hold a ticket or exemption. The only exceptions are residents of Venice and people born there.

Manuel Silvestri – Reuters

People clashed with police while protesting against the imposition of registration and tourism fees to visit Venice.

Hundreds of local residents participated in a protest in Piazza Roma, the city's land entry point, although there is disagreement over the exact number. Protesters say the group at its largest included 1,000 people, while authorities said only 300 attended.

A smaller protest was held near the main train station where Venetian residents confronted the mayor, who was giving interviews to various television crews. This protest ended with the mayor embracing him, according to news reports that covered the confrontation.

Ruggero Talon, one of the main protest organizers and spokesman for the anti-cruise ship campaign group No Grandi Navi, told CNN that the group planned to erect a banner reading “Welcome to Veniceland” and distribute fake “tickets” to passersby. But the police stopped them. Instead they walked to Campo Santa Margherita, one of the city's main squares.

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“We revolted against the mayor’s idea of ​​a closed city and a museum city,” Talon told CNN.

“The ticket does nothing. This does not stop the monoculture of tourism. This does not relieve the pressure on Venice. It is a medieval tax and it is against freedom of movement.”

He expressed concern that the project was being run by a private company, which would receive people's data, and suggested that other moves by authorities – including wanting cruise ships to return to the lake, and not yet restricting Airbnbs – would add to the difficulties. the problem.

“On the one hand they do it, and on the other hand they do everything to increase the number of tourists,” said Tallon, who described mass tourism as a “global problem.”

“the only way [forward] “It is the reconstruction of the city – we have 49,000 people, and there are more beds for tourists than residents.” “Let's try to make it possible for people to live here. Every house we live in is a house taken from tourism.”

Entrance fees will not control the numbers, said Elena Gastaldello, president of Arci (Italian Entertainment and Cultural Association) in Veneto, who participated in the protest.

“The ticket will not impose restrictions on tourists’ access to Venice, as no maximum number of visitors has been set, but it will turn the city into an entertainment park,” she told CNN by phone.

“This action is not accompanied by concrete policies for urban development, rent containment and ease of finding housing. It doesn't solve any problems.”

A spokesperson for the mayor's office told CNN that 113,000 visitors registered on the first day, with about 80,000 of them doing so in advance. Of that number, 15,700 – just over 10% – paid the fees.

Among the exemptions were nearly 40,000 hotel guests, and about 4,000 were friends or family of residents. More than 20,000 travelers and 13,000 students entered the city. School groups were also counted.

The council said they checked the credentials of nearly 14,000 people.

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Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

Previously, more than 100,000 people flocked to Venice on some holidays, leading to scenes like this in 2017.

The registration system has highlighted the housing problems faced by residents – on the first day alone, 5,300 people registered to enter the city as second home owners. Venice's population now stands at less than 50,000, with tens of thousands displaced from the city to make way for second homes and Airbnbs.

In preparation for the first day, the council has spent the past few days erecting barriers outside train and bus stations, with separate lines for “residents” and “tourists”. There is also a kiosk outside the train station for arrivals to pay fees or register an exemption. About 150 people were employed to verify people's documents and provide advice.

Fees will be charged 29 days from now until July 14th. Afterwards, Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said they would review how the pilot project went before deciding how to continue.

“No one has done anything at all to regulate tourism, and we believe it is necessary to do something,” he said in a statement issued on the project’s first day.

Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Many visitors will need to pass through new barriers.

These fees have proven controversial with Venetians who fear the risk of turning the city into a theme park, and do not like the idea of ​​having to register any guests.

With some locals preparing to protest the imposition of fees, fully booked trains poured into the city from Milan and Rome.

The first tourists who encountered the checkpoints as they entered the city seemed unfazed.

“I think this is a good thing, it won't deter me,” said Domenic Gagliano, a regular visitor to Italy from Scottsdale, Arizona, as he got off the train at the Santa Lucia station.

“I went to Cinque Terre last fall and it was impossible. We had just come from Verona – I was last there in 2015 and it has changed a lot. I think if you wanted to come to Venice, you would pay €5 to be here.

Galeano, who booked on Airbnb, said the host sent the link to apply for an exemption. He said the process was fairly smooth, other than having to call an Italian number to get confirmation. “I don't understand why they didn't just receive an email confirmation,” he said.

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Carolyn Butler, of Wilmington, North Carolina, also supported the move.

“I went to Florence for the fifth time recently and had to get out, and the crowds were so thick,” she said. “It was like July.”

Canadians Dennis Gomez and Brian Johnson from Ottawa said they were following up on when the tariffs would be imposed, after hearing about them on the news in their home country. The hotel they were staying at did not inform them.

“I support it — and my assumption is that it will help pay for the infrastructure to allow others to see the gun,” she said.

For Johnson, it is important that visitors contribute to the destinations they travel to.

“People go on a cruise and don't spend a dime, but someone has to pay,” he said.

“We always try to put money into the local economy,” Gomez said. “It's really important.”

But locals remained skeptical. Paolo Prandolesio, who makes oars and com. forcole (Venice's famous gondola locks) He told CNN he didn't think the fees would help a city besieged by overtourism.

“They don't set a cap on entry, and today 80,000 people have booked – it would be a nightmare,” he said.

“What happens if 150,000 people book and have to let them in? They say people's freedom should be respected, but they have to pay the price. It's laughable.

He suggested incentivizing visitors to stay longer, by offering discounts on longer hotels, for example – or simply limiting visitor numbers. He added that prioritizing the lives of local people was ultimately more important to preserving Venice.

Achille Giacom, who had been staging a lone protest outside the train station throughout the afternoon, said he was concerned about handing over the data.

“It is a population control measure,” he said. “Data is just another resource. [Mankind] The planet's natural and human reserves have been exhausted, and now it wants our data.

“Italians are usually the first to disobey orders, but with this it is as if they are hypnotized.”

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