Venice, Italy is romantic, enchanting and postcard-perfect, attracting up to 20 million visitors each year. But now the frustrated locals want their city back.
Hundreds of Venetians have clogged the city’s narrow streets, brandishing shopping trolleys and prams, to protest against the hordes of tourists that pour into the city every day.
They’re fed-up with battling crowds while going about their everyday business, claiming they can’t afford the skyrocketing price of rent as tacky souvenir shops push out necessities.
Venice, located in northern Italy, is famous for its canals, gondoliers, and risotto. Its labyrinth of medieval streets, large squares and beautiful churches makes it extremely popular for day trips.
More than 60,000 visitors arrive each day on cruise ships and trains, which is more than the city’s estimated permanent population of 55,000.
“We may be the last generation to live in Venice as a real city, where to find a house and a job, or going about our daily lives on the streets were normal things, not the actions of superheroes,” protester group Generation 90 said in an open letter on Facebook.
“Now let’s be clear: we’re not nostalgic, we’re p***** off. But we’re also realistic and determined to give all so that this town, our town, does not decay permanently.”
Organizers say Venetians want reasonable rent, jobs that allow them to afford the cost of living, and access to the services that normal cities offer their residents.
They want to change the appeal of the city, attracting people who want to spend four or five days instead of four or five hours.
Although cruise ships contribute 20 per cent of income from tourism, locals say day-trippers fail to support local businesses, including restaurants and hotels.
“We don’t want a city of tourists, which they empty the night. We want a city that you breathe,” the protesters wrote.
Recently, authorities introduced separate entrances to the canals, so residents don’t have to battle crowds while boarding the city’s water buses, but it’s not enough. Tensions are rising.
Europe’s other famous canal city, Bruges, is so touristy it’s been criticized as being “fake.”
The medieval city was renovated in the 19th century, adding bridges and buildings to house craft beer breweries and world-class chocolatiers, and restoring the historical center to add charm.
Three million people visit the Belgian landmark each year, swamping the local population of 45,000, whose livelihoods depend on serving the masses.