Italy strives to prevent overtourism from coming back

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06:45:50 - July 27, 2021

Famed for the name “heaven of romance”, Italy has always been an ideal destination for tourists around the world. However, once the numbers grew to ten million visitors each year, the romance had gradually disappeared and was replaced by overtourism. In order to prevent this situation from coming back again, many big cities in Italy have been planning to cope with overtourism.

Overtourism is defined as an excessive number of visitors heading to a famous location at the same time leading to negative impact on the environment and residents’ lives. It normally happens to the destinations with mass tourism.

In the previous article, Destination Review mentioned overtourism term and its consequences along with some solutions applied in different countries. This time, let’s figure out what Italian authorities plan to deal with overtourism in the future!

The alarming state of overtourism in Italy before the pandemic

Venice, Florence or Rome are very attractive destinations to tourists in Italy and consequently leading to serious overtourism.

Every year, the historic city Venice welcomes 25 to 30 million visitors while its population is just around 55,000 people. The crowds “attack” the city leading to many residents’ strikes. They even have to move to other places to live. Each year, around 1,000 Venice citizens leave their hometown. Some demographers predicted that by 2030, there could be no more full-time residents in Venice. The poetic and romantic beauty here has been fading, giving way to crowds, environment pollution, erosion, damaged ecosystem, and water accidents, etc.

In an in-progress session, UNESCO World Heritage Site is discussing whether to add Venice to the “World Heritage in Danger” list (or “red list”). This list includes UNESCO’s world heritages being affected negatively, mainly related to overtourism. In 1987, Venice was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now it is in the possibility of being delisted.

Florence is not much better while facing overtourism regularly. This city is well-known for the Uffizi gallery with a great collection of Renaissance art of the world and is the most visited museum in Italy. During the high season, up to 12,000 guests go there per day, mostly to take selfies with the renowned masterpieces instead of admiring the humans’ art.

Italy’s efforts in the past

In the summer of 2017, Venice launched the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign that tourists are welcome but only if they play by the rules. They are not allowed to swim in canals, make picnic stops out of public areas, pause too long on bridges, drop litter, ride or wheel bikes, stand or lie on benches, climb on trees, attach “love locks” to monuments and bridges, get changed in public, feed birds, make too much noise, etc. If they broke the rules, the charge could be up to more than 530 USD. More severely, tourists could be forced to leave the city. It was confirmed that from May to July 2019, at least 40 visitors were asked to leave Venice for breaching the rules.

Paola Mar – the councilor responsible for tourism said: “The aim is to create more of a deterrent to people who think they can come to the city of Venice and do what they want, not respecting the city and public safety.”

Although the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign couldn’t help much to reduce the number of tourists, it supported propaganda as well as warning people to protect the world’s Heritage better.

Besides Venice, Florence also started #EnjoyRespectFirenze campaign to remind tourists of wrong behaviors with a fine up to over 580 USD, simultaneously showing which practices are good to do in the city. According to regulation, it is forbidden to clutter streets and squares, avoid exaggerated games or jokes that can endanger you and others, throw garbage on public land, make too much noise or write on the walls and monuments, etc.

Rome also applied many strict rules for those who drink alcohol during the curfew, mimic the poses of Ancient Romans statues, make picnics on the streets, jump into the fountain, etc. along with the highest penalty of up to 530 USD.

By regulation and punishment, these cities subtly showed that they wouldn’t welcome unconscious tourists to enter. However, this couldn’t decrease overtourism significantly. Therefore, Italy has been working on other solutions.

Some “moves” for the next “chess match”

Since Covid-19 epidemic broke out, tourism has been frozen, overtourism is now no longer a worry in Italy. However, the problem will obviously happen again once the country reopens without preparation based on the last lessons. To cope with overtourism, the authorities have soon discussed and come up with countermeasures for the future.

Scattering tourists into different places

The clearest and most typical case is Uffizi gallery – considered as one of the must-visit destinations in Florence, Tuscany. To avoid crowds, it’s going to launch the “Uffizi Diffusi” (or “Scattered Uffizi”) project to take out the artworks from the gallery and display them around the Tuscany region.

As planned, up to 100 galleries will be created in the next 5 years. It’s predicted that the project will still attract visitors coming for Uffizi while scattering them into many other places to avoid overtourism in one place and also promote more destinations in the region. Towns and villages around Tuscany are very excited to take part in this project and are nominating buildings that could potentially become exhibition spaces.

This summer, the project is launching with five temporary exhibitions in the area surrounding Florence. Eike Schmidt – Uffizi’s Director called it a “magical mystery tour” of northern Tuscany to create mini art trails among the towns.

Eike Schmidt said that the idea had come to him during lockdown due to the pandemic in 2020. The aim is to create a different type of tourism and ground culture in people’s daily lives. “We need multiple exhibition spaces all over the region, especially in the places where the art itself was born,” he said. Another important target is to prevent the return of overtourism like in recent years.

Making new strict regulations

Italy’s Government approved measures to ban large cruise ships in Venice’s historic lagoon to protect the city from 1 August 2021. The ban applies to ships with any of these features including weighing more than 25,000 tons, longer than 180 meters, higher than 35 meters or more than 0.1% sulfur emission. Other types of cruise ships are allowed to moor at the city centre’s port. Large ships will move temporarily to Venice’s Marghera port.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi emphasized that “the decree adopted represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system.” Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini said this is a “necessary step to protect the environmental, landscape, artistic and cultural integrity of Venice.”

Back to 2019, MSC Opera cruise ship caused media uproar after steering failed on Giudecca canal and crashed into the bankside near the port of Venice, causing at least four tourists to be hurt. Not only unexpected accidents, but the ships would also cause strong waves which ruin the basement of Venice and damage the ecosystem of this lagoon. Therefore, the authorities should have more severe measures for the “oversized” vehicles to Venice.

Adjusting tax and price policy

Venice’s officials submitted a proposal with the hope to limit the number of day-tripping tourists by entry taxes, hotel rentals fees and tourism taxes. In 2019, Venice implemented a tax of above $3.5/pax for day-trippers in the low season. After that, the number of tourists declined quite much, and they transferred from short-time travel to longer one in order to discover the city.

Besides, as mentioned above, around 1,000 residents leave Venice every year. Therefore, the proposal also discussed the idea of increasing permanent residents in the city by limiting rentals and funding new local start-ups.

With these moves, Italy and its famous cities are trying their best to reverse the situation to still attract tourists as well as decrease overtourism. Success or failure, with the determination to stop overtourism, surely Italy will find more effective directions for their beautiful destinations in the future.

Italy strives to prevent overtourism from coming back

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