I feel very lucky to have visited Venice before the advent of cruise ships and budget airlines. During my earliest trips to La Serenissima, it was possible to enjoy the city without hoards of cruise ship passengers and daytrippers. In fact, most evenings the streets and canals were peaceful and uncrowded. It was even possible to eat at restaurants without reservations.
These days, the city, with a population numbering around 54,000, is flooded by nearly 60,000 visitors each day. That’s 20 million plus tourists per year. As a result of the intolerable growth in tourism, the city council has just passed measures designed to protect Venice from unsustainable tourism and the erosion of the city’s character. They have placed a cap on the licensing of new tourist accommodations, banned new fast food restaurants and take away shops, and created a system to track tourist numbers at specific sites in real time. Tourism officials have also been ordered to create new maps and brochures directing visitors to less crowded areas of the city. Municipal officials have suggested that they may begin charging for access to areas such as St. Mark’s Square and may begin gating sections of Venice and bridges to control the numbers of tourists visiting at a given time.