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Venice residents clash with riot police as city launches world’s first tourist entry fee

A gondola sails under the Rialto Bridge on April 24, 2024 in Venice, on the eve of the start of the official trial of the city’s booking system for day-trippers. Venice will begin on April 25, 2024 charging day trippers for entry, a world first aimed at easing pressure on the Italian city drowning under the weight of mass tourism.

Marco Bertorello | Afp | Getty Images

Venice became the first city in the world to charge a payment for tourists in an attempt to alleviate the pressures of mass tourism and make the city more livable for its residents.

The pilot program will exact a fee of 5 euros (US$5.40) from day-trippers going to Venice, one of Italy’s most picturesque and historic cities. The new fee came into effect on Thursday.

Municipal workers were seen checking the tickets of day-trippers outside the front of the fragile lagoon city’s Santa Lucia railway station. Signs had been erected to warn tourists about the payment program.

The charge applies to tourists arriving between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time, while access is free outside of those hours. Day-trippers who fail to pay the fee face fines between 50 euros (about US$53) and 300 euros (about US$322).

Overnight travelers who stay within the municipality of Venice are exempt from the charge but must have a QR code to pass through the gates located at the main access points of the city. Reuters reported that a booth has been set up for visitors without access to a smartphone.

Protesters on Thursday were seen clashing with riot police over the pilot program, with some trying to break through a blockade of officers at Piazzale Roma to enter the city.

Others held banners that read, “No to ticket, Yes to houses and services for all” and “Venice is not sold, it is defended” as they rallied against the measure.

Protestors clash with riot police officers during a demonstration against the new “Venice Access Fee”, organised by the list “Tutta la citta’ insieme” (The whole city together) and members of several Venetians trade associations in “Piazzale Roma” in Venice, on April 25, 2024. Venice launched a new scheme to charge day-trippers for entering the historic Italian city, a world first intended to ease the pressure of mass tourism , but many residents are opposed, in Venice, on April 25, 2024.

Marco Bertorello | Afp | Getty Images

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro on Thursday said that the first objective of the charge, “that of the cultural transition, seems to me to have been achieved.”

“With courage and great humility we are introducing this system because we want to give a future to Venice and leave this heritage of humanity to future generations,” Brugnaro said in a Google-translated post on social media platform X.

On Tuesday, Brugnaro in a separate post on X said that, while Venice would be the first major city to experiment with the payment program, “overtourism is not a problem that only concerns this city.”

“Through this measure we want to improve the quality of life in #Venezia, we want to make it safer, cleaner and with more services, in order to guarantee citizens and visitors peace of mind,” Brugnaro said.

Demonstrators try to break through the blockade created by police officers to enter the city at Piazzale Roma, opposing the charge for tourists to enter the city on April 25, 2024 in Venice, Italy. Today Venice authorities launched a pilot program charging visitors a 5-euro entry fee in the hope that it will discourage at peak time, making the city more livable for its residents.

Stefano Mazzola | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Venice has toyed with the idea of taxing day visitors for years, as one of several measures to curb overtourism. Locals have long blamed overtourism for driving up prices and transforming the city into a souvenir-laden theme park of sorts.

Residents, specifically the estimated 50,000 who live in the city’s historic area, are far outnumbered by the some 5.5 million who visited the city in 2019, according to Statista data. Many of these tourists disembark from cruise ships by the thousands to take photographs of Venice’s famous canals and city squares.

Municipal workers of Venice, show information postcards with QR code to buy ticket for entering the city, in front of the Santa Lucia railway station as they wait to buy tickets, as visitors entering the UNESCO World Heritage site for one day have to buy a five-euro ($5.3) ticket, in Venice on 25 April 2024.

Marco Bertorello | Afp | Getty Images

— CNBC’s Monica Pitrelli contributed to this report.


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