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Venice is eroding under the weight of its tourists.

Jess McHugh
November 03, 2016

Venice has long been one of the most popular cities in Europe, welcoming millions of visitors every year.

But the crush of people who visit are also damaging the beloved city, leading local residents and lawmakers to look for new solutions to preserve the city's heritage.

Venetian authorities are considering instituting a cap on the number of visitors in order to maintain the city safely and comfortably, according to local news outlets.

“We're thinking about it; it’s not definite but we are considering it,” a spokesperson from tourism councilor Paola Mar’s office told The Local on Wednesday.

Residents have complained of the rise of petty crime and vandalism, as well as the erosion of the historic city's bridges and narrow streets because of the tourist influx.

Day-trippers and visitors who arrive on cruise ships have been a particular problem for locals, who say that these visitors come with their own guides and do not do enough for local businesses.

If the cap is implemented, it should not be taken as bad news for future travelers, according to preservation experts. What’s good for Venice is also good for visitors who love and respect the city, they say.

“That’s just one of the many measures that is necessary for Venice to be able to survive,” Jane da Mosto, an environmental scientist and co-founder of the non-profit We Are Here Venice, told Travel + Leisure.

“There is a limited amount of space in Venice. It’s also very dangerous when it gets as crowded as it has been,” she said, noting that a fire or other incident would cause mass panic in the clogged streets.

Practically speaking, tourists to the city will need to plan ahead (as most international visitors already do), if a limit is instated.

Travelers may need to have some flexibility as to when they can come to Venice, and any new laws will likely encourage visitors to stay for more than a day-trip. With all of the gorgeous sites and fresh food in Venice, however, it is impossible to see it all in one day, anyway.

“It is much better to have planned access. It is actually normal in ecological sites,” said Anna Somers Cocks, an activist and former chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund. “Otherwise you destroy the thing that you’re going to visit.”

Pressure to control the city’s crowds has come not only from residents but also from larger intergovernmental organizations. UNESCO warned in July that if Venice did not take immediate and deliberate action to preserve its history, it would be put on the “in danger” list of world heritage sites, which includes Palmyra, Syria, and the Barrier Reef in Belize.

Proponents say the limitation on tourists would therefore be a natural and necessary step in preventing the city from being destroyed.

“The idea of capping things: It’s a normal thing to do,” said Da Mosto. “It doesn’t stop Venice being Venice.”

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