Facing Rising Water and Rising Tourism, Venice Fights Back

From administrators to activists, Venetians agree the city has to change.

Beautiful and damned, mysterious and challenging: Venice, in the popular imagination, is all of these things. Almost since its founding in 421, the citys been a magnet for entrepreneurs, traders and aesthetes, but its more recent renown comes from massive cruise ships, rising water levels and the approximately 30 million annual tourists clogging the citys storied canals and bridges.

Venice has changed a lot since I left it, says Alberto Vitturi, 37, an Oslo-based consultant who grew up in Venice, and whose familys aristocratic roots in the city date back to at least 1260. Massive tourism has always been a big issue, but in the last four to five years it has escalated, and it seems nobody can really do anything to regulate it.

Twice last summer, on June 2 and July 7, two cruise ships lost control in the citys canals, with one crashing dramatically onto the San Basilio docks. Fortunately, the incidents resulted in few physical injuries. Still, the videos, quickly posted on YouTube, showed panicked Venetians trying to escape, and crystalized many Venetians sense that the city is sacrificing its authenticity, ceding its singular beauty to the forces of mass tourism. Freak storms in October 2018 flooded 70 percent of the city, with waters rising more than 58.5 inches above sea level, exacerbating residents anxiety. Theres also the dramatic population decline. In 1960, Venice had more than 170,000 residents; ....

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