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ENVIRONMENT

Drink from fountains not plastic bottles, Venice tells visitors

Plenty of water is essential if you’re visiting Italy’s sights during summer. But Venice has urged visitors to ditch the plastic bottles and stressed that the floating city’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

Drink from fountains not plastic bottles, Venice tells visitors
A visitor fills his water bottle from a fountain at the Flora hotel in Venice. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

In Venice, which welcomes millions of visitors each year, tourism is responsible for between 28 and 40 percent of garbage production depending on the season, according to local government data – including piles and piles of plastic water bottles.

To combat the waste, local authorities are promoting the use of refillable water bottles by calling tourists’ attention to the vast network of drinking water fountains dotting the squares and alleys of the floating city.

READ ALSO: Italy’s plastic tax postponed again under budget plans

“In the historic centre, there are 126 fountains spread over the area, they’re easy to find, there’s one nearly every 100 metres (330 feet),” said architect Alberto Chinellato in his city hall office overlooking the Rialto Bridge.

To make things even easier, water distribution company Veritas has launched an app and website showing a map with all the nearest fountains. 

“Encouraging the use of free drinking water certainly produces less waste… but also brings fewer bottles in the historic centre, which means less pollution and less transport”, said Chinellato.

Leaving Chinellato’s office, AFP observed an empty plastic water bottle bobbing between two gondolas on the Grand Canal – underscoring that the battle against plastic is far from being won.

At the centrally located Hotel Flora, owner Gioele Romanelli has also decided to contribute to the crusade against plastic by educating his guests.

READ ALSO: What is it with Italians and bottled water?

“We simply had a card printed on which we pointed out the fountains of Venice with a little blue drop,” said Romanelli, proudly displaying a copy on a small bistro table.

“Not only with a refillable bottle, but also by recycling a small (plastic) water bottle you can keep all day,” said the 49-year-old hotelier.

At check-in, guests are briefed about Venice’s “good water”.

“They are sometimes surprised to learn that the water in Venice is drinkable,” he said.

“With this small gesture, our customers can actively participate in the battle against plastic,” he said, seeing it as a way, in a city with “an insane number of tourists”, to give them a certain sense of responsibility.

In addition to the card marking the city’s fountains, the hotel has done away with single-dose shampoo and shower gel bottles in the rooms in favour of refillable dispensers.

At breakfast, plastic is a thing of the past, with the hotel now using small glass containers for muesli, dried fruit and yogurt, Romanelli said.

READ ALSO: How will the tourist-control system work in Venice?

Venice is quickly recovering its tourist traffic following the coronavirus pandemic. But after reaching a total of 5.5 million visitors in 2019 – eclipsing the city centre’s 50,000 inhabitants – officials are trying to limit arrivals.

From January, day visitors will pay a tax that they’ve been able to avoid until now by not staying overnight.

The ‘tourist tax’ will be charged at between 3-10 euros (around $3-$10) depending on the time of year, and will be payable online.

It will provide visitors with a QR code to be shown at the various entry points to the historic centre.

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CULTURE

Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2023

After three years of toned-down celebrations, Venice's famous Carnival is finally set to return to its former grandeur. Here’s what you need to know about this year’s edition.

Venice Carnival: What to expect if you're attending in 2023

The historic Venice Carnival – a tradition which dates back to the late 14th century – will be back in all of its splendour this year as the upcoming edition of the festival will be the first one without pandemic-related restrictions since 2019. 

As the undisputed queen of Italian Carnival, Venice will once again put on a full programme of water parades, masked balls, fine dining experiences and street art performances spread over 18 days of sheer carnevale fun.

If you’re planning on taking part in the city’s Carnival celebrations, here’s a quick guide to this year’s main events.

What are the dates?

The Venice Carnival will officially start on Saturday, February 4th with a night parade streaming down the city’s iconic Grand Canal accompanied by music, dance performances and light shows.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

The parade will kick off two weeks of events, unfolding both in the centro storico (city centre) and on the smaller islands of the lagoon.

As always though, celebrations will peak in the six days between giovedì grasso (‘Fat Thursday’, falling on February 16th) and martedì grasso (shrove Tuesday, falling on February 21st). 

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume In St Mark's Square, Venice

The 2023 Venice Carnival will start with a floating parade down the Grand Canal on February 4th. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

The most popular and widely anticipated events of the Venice Carnival are scheduled to take place during those days. However, that will also be the time when the city’s calli and squares will be most crowded. 

What are the main events?

Celebrations will start with the above-mentioned floating parade on Saturday, February 4th, and continue on the following day with another water parade involving traditional Venetian vessels and captained by the beloved Pantegana (a boat shaped like a giant sewer rat).

Apart from that, the Festa delle Marie – a historic beauty pageant during which 12 young local women are dressed up in Renaissance costumes, paraded throughout the city, and then subjected to a vote as to which of them makes the best Maria – will start on Saturday, February 11th. 

The winner of the contest will be announced in Saint Mark’s Square on shrove Tuesday, the final day of the festival. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ – again

Original Signs, a music and dancing show performed on six floating stages set within the iconic Venetian Arsenal (the former seat of the Venetian navy), will begin on Friday, February 10th, with performances running on a nearly daily basis until the end of the festival.

Original Signs will run alongside Original Sinners, a fine dining experience followed by a masked ball at the magnificent Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 15th century palace facing the Grand Canal which is also the current seat of Venice’s Casino. 

As with Original Signs, the event will be available to the public on multiple dates.

Masked revellers wearing a traditional carnival costume pose in St Mark Square, Venice

The historic ‘Flight of the Angel’ will not take place this year due to ongoing work in St Mark’s Square. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Aside from major events, street art performances, workshops, exhibitions and seminars will take place at various venues across the city for the entire duration of the festival. Some of these require booking in advance, which you can do on the Venice Carnival official website

On a rather sombre note, the Volo dell’Angelo (‘Flight of the Angel’), the traditional ceremony in which a costumed woman ‘flies’ down a cable from the bell tower in Saint Mark’s Square to the centre of the piazza, will not be performed this year due to ongoing repair work

How busy will it be?

The 2023 edition of the Venice Carnival is expected to mark a “final return to normality”, according to local media.  

And, with just a couple of days to go until the official start of the festival, it looks like the floating city is about to experience pre-pandemic numbers of visitors – current estimates indicate that around half a million people will visit the city over Carnival.

According to Claudio Scarpa, president of Venice’s Hoteliers Association, local hotels “will soon be all but fully booked for weekends”, though large numbers of bookings are also being registered on weekdays, especially those in “the last stages of the festival”.

Given the expected turnout, local transport operator ACTV will enhance their services for the entire duration of the Carnival to avoid overcrowding on buses and water buses. 

For more details about the Venice Carnival and bookings, see the festival’s official website

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