Venice live blog: Iconic Italian city to segregate tourists and locals this weekend

Julia Buckley
Saturday 28 April 2018 11:48
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Barriers installed in Venice, Italy ahead of day of segregation of tourists and residents

Welcome to Venice on what authorities have predicted will be the busiest day of the year for tourists. Possibly one of its most controversial days, too – because they’re planning to segregate locals and tourists in order to divert footfall where possible.

The “urgent measures” have been decreed by mayor Luigi Brugnaro in the wake of a packed Easter weekend which drew local ire when vaporetti (waterbuses) were close to unusable and the main streets were unbearably full.

The measures work on the basis that the vast majority of visitors want to visit just two places in Venice: Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Checkpoints will be set up at the two main entrances to the city: Piazzale Roma (the bus terminal) and the Santa Lucia train station. Only locals and those carrying a Carta Venezia (for frequent visitors) will be allowed along the main thoroughfares; everyone else will be diverted along less direct routes.

So is this the day Venice officially turns into a theme park? The Independent’s travel editor, Julia Buckley, is in town – and as a regular visitor in possession of a Carta Venezia, she’s going to experience both sides of the divide.

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Other measures include rerouting boats full of daytrippers that usually stop at Riva degli Schiavoni in San Marco to Fondamente Nuove in Cannaregio, which is further away from the city centre.

Those driving may need a parking reservation or risk being redirected away from the centre, and local police will be keeping an eye on the main car park; once full, they may limit the number of cars they allow over the bridge from the mainland.

“Our goal is to inform those who want to come to the city that in the coming days there could be an extraordinary influx of people, making it difficult to visit,” said the mayor in a statement.

“All tourists know that, if they respect the city, they are welcome. At the same time, however, we have the task of safeguarding Venice, and this is why we have adopted measures based on what is permitted by current regulation.”

He added that this weekend was an opportunity to “experiment with a new tourism management system”.

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Benvenuti a Venezia! La Serenissima hasn't been looking so serene of late - after 200,000 tourists piled in over Easter weekend, with more due for this bank holiday weekend, the mayor has decided to segregate locals and visitors. Only locals - and people in possession of a Venezia Unica card, which essentially means regular visitors - will be allowed on the main thoroughfares going to Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.I come here about six times a year so I have a card. The plan is to see it from both sides of the fence.

julia.buckley28 April 2018 12:10
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I landed at the airport exactly an hour ago. The first clue Venice is brimming over? Instead of docking at a gate, we (on BA) were directed to an overspill area, along with easyJet and Aeroflot. The arrivals hall, though? Eerily empty. As in, I've never seen it so deserted. Maybe the foreigners cried off, and it's just going to be me and the "mordi-fuggi" (hit and run - literally "bite and run") daytrippers.

julia.buckley28 April 2018 12:15
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There are 3 cruise ships in town today - they were dwarfing the city skyline as we flew in. But there's curiously little traffic on the bridge over from the mainland. Although the airport bus gets snarled up in a queue of cars waiting to park at Piazzale Roma, the last stop for the four-wheeled.The bus station doesn't seem too busy, to be honest, but I can see police guarding the main bridge out of here under a big no entry sign.But first... I need to get a copy of the cars that's going to let me through. Although I brought 3 powerbanks for my phone and an adaptor, I couldn't find my card when I was leaving this morning at 6am...I'll be €10 down for the replacement card (they cost €50 to buy) but that seems a small price to pay for the freedom of the city.

julia.buckley28 April 2018 12:26
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I've been over half an hour queuing for a Venezia Unica card so far (not a Carta Venezia as I said initially). There are about 20 souls ahead of me who'd rather spend their trip queuing than walk for an extra 10min. Almost all are Italian. The exceptions: me (clinging desperately to her three-generations-back Genoese heritage) and some Germans, springing €50 a piece. Hope they know it's not compulsory..

julia.buckley28 April 2018 12:36
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48 minutes later, I have a replacement card. Time to sally forth past the tourists and enjoy me some empty streets

julia.buckley28 April 2018 12:58
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The Calatrava Bridge at Piazzale Roma that leads into town from the bus terminal is the first checkpoint. There are 3 gates set up in front of it with a no entry sign one side, and another saying "entrance for residents / Venezia Unica". It's manned by police and a guy wearing an "Enjoy Respect Venezia" t-shirt (that's the official campaign to improve tourist behaviour). There's a TV camera filming people walking up and down. I saunter up hiding my card - I want to get the tourist treatment. But they don't bat an eyelid as I walk through like a total tourist.

julia.buckley28 April 2018 13:41
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Time for some photos (I found wifi). Here's Venice from the air this morning, coming in to land alongside three giant cruise ships.

Venice from the air looking peaceful 

Here's the empty airport

Venice airport at midday today 

julia.buckley28 April 2018 14:14
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The local paper is pulling no punches: "The assault of tourism": Venice closes down, here come the gates

Assault of tourism 

julia.buckley28 April 2018 14:17
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Four guys manning the entrance to the Calatrava Bridge - the main, or best known, way to Rialto and Piazza San Marco. They let me straight past - and now I know there's a reason for that. 

julia.buckley28 April 2018 14:24
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Even locals are confused about what's going on today - the gates are being manned but people are walking through without any checks. I asked the woman behind the till at Pimkie, a shop in the train station (the other chokepoint according to the mayor) - she said that the controls were starting on 1 May. They can't come soon enough, chimed in a fellow customer.

But then I walked out of the train station, turned left towards Rialto and found giant yellow signs trying to direct me across a bridge to the other side (away from Rialto). "Accademia, Rialto, San Marco" they said.

Rialto! 

There was another bunch of gates leading onto the road that leads onto the Strada Nuova (again, a chokepoint leading to Rialto), and again people were coasting through them, suitcases in hand.

I asked the policemen guarding the gates why they weren't checking people. Has it not started yet?

"No, it started today," one told me. "But it depends on the footfall, so right now the gates are open."

In other words, they're constantly monitoring flow, and as soon as it gets to a certain amount (we don't know what it is), they'll shut them.

julia.buckley28 April 2018 14:34

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