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Close off Venice? The debate is on

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Gondoliers near Rialto bridge in Venice where a tourist was killed in a boat crash on August 18.— Photo: Reuters
Gondoliers near Rialto bridge in Venice where a tourist was killed in a boat crash on August 18.— Photo: Reuters

Should Venice be closed off to visitors? Some activists are urging for a radical solution to the problem of tourism overcrowding, yet local authorities and some residents are strongly opposed to the idea.

The debate has been ongoing for years, but gained new prominence after excessive traffic on the Grand Canal — which has risen exponentially along with tourist numbers — was blamed for a fatal crash last month between a gondola and a ferry that left a German man dead.

Italia Nostra, a heritage group, says the city now has 30 million visitors per year, whereas a 1988 academic study concluded that 7.5 million was the sustainable level, with 12 million the absolute maximum Venice could bear.

“The alleyways are full, nobody can get on the water buses, it is becoming a torture even for tourists,” said Paolo Lanapoppi, an Italia Nostra campaigner.

“In order to manage the tourism, someone at high level has to admit in public that soon the numbers will need to be limited,” Anne Somers Cocks, former head of Venice in Peril, a British charity, wrote in the New York Review of Books in June. — DPA

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