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VENICE

Is Venice about to introduce long-awaited entry fees for tourists?

Nearly three years after it first broached plans for a 'tourist tax', the city of Venice says it will soon make day-trippers pay for access to the city centre.

Is Venice about to introduce long-awaited entry fees for tourists?
Tourists in front of the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) in Venice in summer 2021. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

After a two-year-long slumber, it seems the winged Lion of Saint Mark is roaring again. Venice saw the return of pre-pandemic numbers of visitors over the Easter holidays, with some 160,000 tourists thought to have poured down the city’s calli on Saturday alone, according to local authorities.

Though the return of international tourism to La Serenissima is welcome news for many, it also brought renewed concerns about the floating city’s ability to support such large numbers of visitors and the previously chronic problem with overtourism.

It was no coincidence that, on Monday, the city’s mayor announced he would go ahead with long-discussed plans to regulate access to the city by means of an entry fee 

“Today many have had the chance to appreciate that a booking system is the most appropriate course of action to achieve a more balanced management of the city’s tourism,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wrote on Twitter:

“We will be the first in the world to carry out this difficult experiment,” he said.

The idea to charge day-trippers a contributo d’accesso (entry fee) had first been mooted back in early 2019. But the plan was delayed indefinitely by the second-worst flooding in Venice’s history in November that year, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

OPINION: After flooding and coronavirus, is it time Venice stopped relying on tourism?

Now that international tourism is gradually picking up again in Italy, Brugnaro’s plans seem to be finally set to materialise.

The city plans to bring in the first measures by this summer, Venice Tourism Commissioner Simone Venturini told newspaper La Repubblica.

“We will start with an ‘experimental’ phase wherein day-trippers will be encouraged to book their visit through a website,” he said.

Tourists arriving in Venice in July 2019. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

During this phase, entering the city’s centro storico (old town) will remain free of charge, but those registering their personal details on the relevant online platform will receive a reward “such as discounts on museum admissions”, he said.

Only after this initial trial phase will the city council introduce the much-touted entry fee.

The expected start date will be confirmed in the coming weeks, but Venturini indicated in comments to the media that it is expected to be early 2023.

People who visit Venice just for the day will pay between three and ten euros for entry depending on the season, according to reports. This is expected to mean €3 in low season, €8 in high season and €10 on days of exceptional overcrowding.

The fee will not apply to those staying overnight in Venice.

City residents will be exempted from paying the toll, though people travelling from other Veneto provinces might not.

READ ALSO:  Dress up and pay up: Venice mayor announces updated plans to control tourism in the city

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Venturini also said the number of daily visitors should be capped at either 40,000 or 50,000, or “roughly one tourist per city centre resident”. 

The measure will reportedly be enforced with the help of a state-of-the-art control tower located in the Tronchetto area, where the main car park for tourists is located, and at turnstiles at the city’s major entry points.

Those entering Venice without having paid the relevant fee will be liable to fines, with the amount expected to be specified in the coming weeks.

As could be expected, Brugnaro’s plans have already attracted plenty of criticism, with opposition parties questioning the efficacy of the toll gate system and vowing to oppose the proposed measures.

“Turnstiles won’t solve Venice’s problems; only a conscious, preemptive handling of visitors’ inflow would,” Leader of the left-wing Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) in Venice, Monica Sambo, wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday.

The council should have a comprehensive tourism management project by now but they don’t and now everything is pretty much like it was before the pandemic.”

Criticism aside, the mayor, who was re-elected for a second term in September 2020, enjoys the support of a solid majority within the city council.

As such, the leading party’s propositions are likely to come into effect rather seamlessly and, after a three-year delay, Venice should finally have its entry fee system up and running by early 2023. 

With that being said, whether the planned measures will actually help the city (and its disgruntled residents) cope with its notoriously large waves of tourism remains to be seen. As ever, chi vivrà, vedrà.

Member comments

  1. Wonderful news, finally! To protect Venice, these measures are really overdue.
    But most importantly, stop the hideous huge cruise ships in the main lagoon near San Marco. They buy very little in Veniceand just add to the mess and tat that you see in too many Chinese shops there!

  2. Nothing said about people who own a second home in Venice. Are they expected to pay an entrance fee to go their own house, on which they already pay city, rubbish, electricity, water and gas taxes?

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CHRISTMAS

Seven of Italy’s most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

Here are some of the most magical Christmas markets taking place in Italy this year.

Seven of Italy's most enchanting Christmas markets in 2022

After two years of pandemic cancellations and restrictions, Italy’s Christmas markets will be back in full swing this festive season.

While the energy crisis means some towns are cutting back on lighting and limiting the hours of operation, there’s still plenty of magic to be found.

Whether your focus is on sipping mulled wine surrounded by snow-topped mountains, riding a ferris wheel, sampling German sausages or marvelling at light displays, Italy has something for everyone.

Without further ado, here are some of the country’s best Christmas markets in 2022.

Bolzano

One of Italy’s longest-running Christmas markets, the festive extravaganza in Bolzano’s Piazza Walther is also said to be the country’s largest, with around 80 stalls selling a variety of traditional handicrafts and local treats.

Resting at the foot of the snow-capped Dolomites, Bolzano’s pre-WWI history and proximity to the Austrian border means the city is steeped in Germanic influences, with a number of citizens speaking German as their first language.

This gives Bolzano’s Christmas market a German twist; expect to be offered candied fruit, apple strudel, cinnamon-spiced mulled wine and other alpine delights as you browse its chalet huts.

When? Until January 6th

Christmas balls on display in Bolzano's Christmas market.

Christmas balls on display in Bolzano’s Christmas market. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Trento

While it hasn’t been running for quite as long as neighbouring Bolzano’s, Trento’s Christmas market has become almost as popular, with new stalls added every year.

Just like Bolzano, Trento is surrounded by maintains, which means you can take in views of stunning white peaks as you wander the old town’s cobbled streets warming your hands on a cup of vin brulè.

As usual, the market will be spread across Piazza Battisti and Piazza Fiera; the Trento city council has also published a calendar of key events happening every day as part of the city’s festive offering.

This year Trento’s Christmas market will have a ‘green’ focus – the use of clean energy, edible bread plates and recycled paper are all part of the concerted effort to limit the event’s environmental impact.

When? Until January 8th

Trento's Christmas market has grown rapidly in recent years.

Trento’s Christmas market has grown rapidly in recent years. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP.

Milan

Throughout the month of December and into January, Milan’s Piazza del Duomo plays host to the city’s Christmas market, with almost 80 wooden huts popping up all over the main square.

Those who want to see Milan at its most Christmassy, however, will want to wait for the “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” (“How beautiful! How beautiful!” in local dialect) festive fair held in the area surrounding the city’s castle, Castello Sforzesco.

This sprawling, centuries-old market is held to coincide with the Feast of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint, and is expected to take place as usual from December 7th-10th.

As a result of the energy crisis, Milan will turn on its Christmas lights two weeks later than usual this year, on December 7th – so you might want to time your visit accordingly if you want to witness the city’s illumination.

When? December 1st until January 6th (Piazza del Duomo market)

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021.

People walk across a Christmas market in downtown Milan as snow falls on December 8, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Cernobbio, Como

Lake Como’s roving ‘Città dei balocchi‘ or ‘Toytown’ Christmas fair this year moves to Cernobbio, where visitors can expect to find the town’s Villa Erba park transformed into a winter wonderland.

Fairytale characters, singing trees and a talking tower will greet adults and children who enter the park, with admission free to all.

Festivities are due to kick off at 5pm on December 7th with the opening of Magic Light festival, a mesmerising light display with projections of moving images.

On December 8th – Italy’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which for many in Italy signals the start of the festive period – light displays on Cernobbio’s tree and in the old town will be switched on, heralding the arrival of Christmas.

When? December 7th until January 8th

Florence

Florence has a range of Christmas markets, but the largest and best-known is the one on Piazza Santa Croce in front of the beautiful Santa Croce Basilica.

It’s run by the organisers of the Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany, which means you can expect authentic bratwurst, stollen, Glühwein, lebkuchen biscuits and German beer, as well as Austrian, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, French and Italian treats.

This one closes a full week before Christmas, so if you’re planning an Italy Christmas markets tour you might want to make Florence your first stop.

When? Until December 18th

Florence's Christmas market is German-themed.

Florence’s Christmas market is German-themed. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Verona

Like Florence, Verona’s Christmas market is a collaboration with that of a German city; in this case, Nuremberg’s Christkindlmarkt.

At the main market on Piazza dei Signori you can expect to find sauerkraut, potatoes and German sausage, as well as fried donuts made with ricotta and coated in chocolate.

In addition to those on main square, the market stalls – which this year number some 100 huts – will fill Cortile del Mercato Vecchio and stretch intro surrounding squares and streets.

This year’s festive offering includes a Santa Claus house, a children’s train, two skating rinks, and a range of musical events.

Be sure to look out for the city’s famous 70m-high, 82m-long illuminated shooting star sculpture in Piazza Bra – installed in November and dismantled in January every year since 1984, the sight has become central to the Veronese Christmas experience.

When? Until December 26th

Salerno

Ensuring that Italy’s northern and central regions don’t get all of the glory, the Luci d’artista (Artist’s Lights) display in Salerno draws visitors from all over the world to this small city just east of the Amalfi coast.

This illuminated open-air exhibition runs the length of the main shopping street, up to the Christmas tree on Piazza Portanova, through the medieval city centre and up to the Villa Comunale public gardens.

Salerno’s Christmas market stalls occupy a stretch of the seafront, and this year will run from December 3rd-25th.

Accompanying the event will be a 55m-high ferris wheel, two jazz concerts, and a Santa Claus house (from December 10th to January 7th).

When? December 2nd until January 31st; Christmas market stalls December 3rd-25th.

The Luci d’artista lights display in Salerno attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Luci d’artista lights display in Salerno attracts visitors from all over the world. Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP.
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