There are many travel blog posts about Venice things to avoid. This one is different.
My tip? Don’t visit Venice. Really, you shouldn’t. I know I write a post about my last visit in Venice. It is exactly after that I started to follow blogs and Facebook pages about the situation in Venice. I know you’ll love to go there, but I’m sure you want to be an aware tourist. You might decide not to visit Galapagos or mount Everest to preserve them. The same way, you may decide to avoid Venice. Here’s some reasons why.
Venice is beautiful, but I won’t ever live there.
This sentence in Italy has become “the” commonplace, the example to explain what a commonplace is. Ironically someone could say among Venice things to avoid the first is a resident. But they have reasons if they’re not so kind with tourists. While tourists are more and more every year, Venice is becoming less and less populated.
Inhabitants were nearly 150.000 in 1971, now they are less than 55.000. Look at the infograph in this article. And they are decreasing literally day by day. The phenomenon is followed by the website Venessia.com with hashtag #Venexodus. For sure Venice is not a simple place to live in. You must take a boat to go, like, everywhere. Just to go to the grocery you must walk up and down millions of stairs and bridges.
But the main reasons is the cost of houses. Rent an apartment in the city centre is mostly unaffordable. In a city assaulted by tourist in every season, owners prefer to rent to tourist and to convert their houses in guest rooms and B&B. And an increasing number of historic buildings have been converted to hotels.
Probably they not just greedy. I met a Venetian who’s restoring her house in the city centre and she told me it’s so expensive she has no other choice than turn it in a guest room to recoup the expense. Nevertheless, since it’s so easy to place a flat on Airbnb, there are hundreds of unregulated activities. In 2016 authorities discovered about 100 irregular B&B and apartments. They found not only dirty rooms, there was even an irregular B&B in a palace with Jacuzzi and butlers. After these controls, the city council curiously received nearly 2.000 request to start up an hospitality activity. Make your own conclusions. It meant tax evasion and lack of control the of tourists travelling in and out Venice. Which bring to the next point.
A Horde of tourists.
Venice things to avoid are overcrowded places. So everywhere in the historical city centre. How many tourists get in Venice every day? I found very hard to retrieve a unique number. This article reports 27 million people in 2014. According to what I’ve read here and there, it’s for sure a number above 20 millions per year. But I’ve found articles evaluating even 30 million people per year.
Let’s say 55.000 to 74.000 tourists per day on average. They range between 30.000 in low season to, say, 100.000 people per day peak days (summer, Biennale opening or Carnival). And then you have to add about 35.000 commuter workers and University students per day. I apologize if these numbers are not perfect, it’s just my esteem on the bases of what I’ve read.
Can you imagine living in a city where there are at least two tourists for each resident, every single day? Imagine how it is going on a bus or at the supermarket. Than add the small streets, the channels and bridges of Venice. You end up to understand the feeling of Venetians.
How many tourists can Venice bear?
A 2009 study considered the capacity of tourists services, public transport and so on. It stated that the sustainable limit for Venice is 150.000 people per day. 120.000 is considered comfort, 160.000 crowded, 190.000 overcrowded. It would be about 30.000 tourists per day to be in comfort situation, 60-70.000 in a crowded day. You don’t need these numbers to see that it’s on average always a crowded day in Venice! Therefore, the solution they are discussing is limiting the number of visitors per day.
A huge number of the daily tourists in Venice disembark from huge cruise ships. The exhibition “Venezia e le grandi navi” by the photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin raised the attention on the big cruise ships dangerously moving close to St. Mark Square. Check some photos or videos on the web and I won’t need to write more words, they’re quite impressive.
Other then the tourists influx, the pollution and safety problems are obvious. Think about the vibration and waves they cause in such a fragile environment. And my scary thought is: what if a silly manoeuvre (we alredy had one...) directs a ship exactly in the St. Mark square direction?
St. Mark’s square is a Venice thing to avoid?
St. Mark square is a free access place, like every public square must be. It’s closed by the sea on one edge and the only accesses are very small roads and bridges. I’m hardly afraid, but last I was there I checked the safest way out. Just to say that probably we can’t help in the future to limit the number of people in the square.
Venice things to avoid: Venice itself?
Question is: are you looking for a art and history Disneyland? I think you look for authenticity at first. And sadly you’re finding it less and less. Especially in the most popular tourists routes. I’m not against “tourist” places. But you should be aware of what is happening in Venice.
What can you do?
Both the city and the lagoon are very peculiar and fragile environment. As I said visit Venice in a sustainable way, as you would do in a uncontaminated Pacific island. (Uhm…would you do?)
Some practical tips
The most important Venice things to avoid are high season and the most touristic routes. Winter and hidden places will not disappoint you, everything’s so beautiful (And you save money).
Among the Venice things to avoid I place also shopping. Venice is a very expensive city. But if you want to, choose small local artisans and groceries out of the main touristic stream. You’ll contribute to keep the city alive. (And you save money).
As recommended by citizen’s association “gruppo 25 aprile“, check your B&B is regular: is it only on AirB&B? You can check here if it’s known to authorities. It’s also for your safety. (Ok, you don’t save money).
Read! St. Mark square and church, the tower are beautiful, but what do you know about them? Be aware of what you are going to see.
Other thing to avoid in Venice are being gross and unrespectful. There’s water around, but sunbathing on the pavement is not a good idea. There’s the beach for that.
Tourism is a bless or a curse for Venice. Preserve the city is a task of Venice city council and citizens, but tourist must contribute with sustainable behaviours. Even choosing not to go there.
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