Venice will trial an admission fee and a daily limit on visitor numbers in its overcrowded centre from next April, in a scheme the Italian city’s mayor has hailed as a world first.
The system is designed to manage the flow of tourists when visitor numbers are at their peak, local authorities said during a press conference on Thursday.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“It is the first time in the world that you do something like this, you make a city bookable,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said.
Under the scheme, day visitors will pay five euros ($5.45) to enter the city centre between 8:30am and 4pm during the peak tourist season from April 25 to May 5.
The fee will also apply for the remaining weekends in May and June, as well as the first two weekends of July.
Travellers will have to book their visit online and obtain a QR code that will be checked at specific entry points and grant them access to the city’s historic quarters.
Restrictions will not apply to the lagoon’s smaller islands, such as Murano, which is famous for its glass-making industry.
Authorities have debated for years, without taking action, over how best to regulate the millions of visitors who flock to the fragile, lagoon city to enjoy its picturesque canals and sights including St Mark’s Square, and the Rialto Bridge.
The historic centre has a permanent population of about 51,000 people and many worry their city, already subject to regular flooding, cannot cope with the increasing number of visitors.
The ticketing plan had been repeatedly postponed over concerns it would curb tourist revenue and compromise freedom of movement.
But city authorities finally decided to push forward with the experiment after UNESCO warned it could list Venice as an at-risk world heritage site.
Residents and people who were born in Venice as well as students, workers and homeowners in the city will be exempt from the scheme, while access for children under the age of 14 will be free once they have registered.
Those who fail to comply with the measures will face fines of between 50 and 310 euros (between $54 and $340)
Brugnano said authorities were ready to make changes to the system to ensure it works, but suggested it could “serve as a model for other fragile and delicate cities that must be protected”.