My wife and I visited Venice, Italy, the first week of September. This was my maiden voyage even though my wife had visited several other times. I never had any desire to visit but several of those close to me said I should visit at least once, especially considering I was going to be in Italy anyway. Therefore, a few nights in this lagoon city would have to be experienced.
While strolling around Venezia, I got the sense that many locals were somewhat upset about too many visitors coming to town. Being my first visit and knowing they rely heavily on tourism, I was surprised. Anyway, after speaking with several service employees in Venice about this trend, and reading a few more articles about this phenomenon and seeing more than several somewhat sign reminders on how tourists should behave in areas that sell Italian material, scarfs, souvenirs and gelato, it finally dawned on me that Venice may have had enough with tons of daily visitors.
I can empathize with those Venice residents being frustrated with too many tourists, I may feel the same way with smothering tourists visiting from cruise ships and endless tourist buses in the summer and into the fall. However, a few things to consider. If there are 50% fewer tourists, can their economy survive? In particular, those in the souvenir or restaurant business? Currently, many businesses do well for the key tourism months and then they hang on during the gap period until the next busy season rolls around. With 30-50% less business during those “high season” 7 month or so, what would be the result?
Honest question and based on my brief experiences as a tourist, is Venice doing things to either limit or deter tourism?
When you get to a certain age, having access to restrooms is something frequently on mind so how does that apply to basic logistics in St Mark’s Square, Venice’s main tourist spot? If you are patient, you need to follow the WC (Water Closet = restroom) signs on the sidewalk to use the toilette. However, that’s better in theory than in practice. Two restrooms in opposite directions were indicated on the Venice map near the square but after three attempts, I gave up trying. While looking for where the WC should have been, I did see plenty of ATMs during our journey. A cynic might say banks have more affluence on local governments than urologists. In my mind, if you’re not trying to scare tourists away, hosts could make WCs much easier to find.
Another element that may help deter tourists is street merchants trying to sell their wares. They are selling selfy sticks, aerial toys, umbrellas (mostly for the August Venetian heat), and roses. The most annoying part of visiting there were those Indian looking men selling roses. They often would attempt to place the rose in a woman’s hand. Once it was touched or grabbed, the sale was complete. These merchants were relentless and even if they were unaware, violated the personal space of some tourists.
The only way you can get around the City of Bridges besides walking or an overpriced gondola ride is with public water transportation or a water taxi. Taxis are quite expensive so if you want to get to the other side of the island, a good option is the public water transportation. However, each ticket is €7.50. It’s essentially a subway system build on the canals and waterways. I’ve taken dozens of subways in the major European cities and haven’t ever been charged €7.50 for a ride. Perhaps that’s a way of Venice telling tourists they may not as many visitors. If that’s not enough, on our first water ride, we saw five tourists did not have the appropriate ticket. The fee for such a transgression is €67.50. I understand being responsible for your actions, however, €67.50 per offense? The one party didn’t have enough cash and without a credit card, had to temporarily turn over their passport to help ensure the bill would be eventually paid. Should I state the obvious that these offenders will not return to Venice?
The strong Venetian sentiment says not to sit on any stairs of the marble statues throughout Venice and I get that. I may feel the same way but what’s the alternative, as the crowds will assemble here regardless of the seating arrangement? (see featured image). If you’ve ever visited in July or August, finding a place to sit while challenging massive crowds typically requires spending Euros at an outdoor café. In fact, some tired tourists just give up and end up spending €10 on a drink and a snack. With so many people and crowded spaces, many tourists just need temporary relief to regroup before venturing out again.
Some Venetians wants to reduce the amount of tourists, climate change may be more a threat that hordes of tourists taking gondola rides (€75-100 per boat for 35 minutes) or sipping chardonnay at St Mark’s Square. If you’re tired of tourists, then reshape your economy, especially in Italy and in particular Venice are designed. Could you increase your restaurant or hotel tax by 35% to help deter some of the hordes of tourists from visiting? Will Venice change its economy by the time it’s main square is under water? Interesting some Venetian residents complain about what tourists can and can’t do but at this point, signage on shop windows on how tourists should behave may not make the difference as more drastic measures may be needed. In other words, sometimes the only effective plan is hitting visitors in the pocketbook. Perhaps is it a stretch that some of my experiences described above are some of the more insidious measures they are taking.
Prior to spending time in Venice, I had visited Rome and the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it if you throw a coin into the fountain while your back is facing it, you will return to Rome. I have a counter intuitive approach to Venice. If my back is facing one of their lagoons and I throw a coin into the lagoon, I will never return. Once is enough and that’s fine by me.