With the 57th annual La Biennale art festival set to begin in Venice on May 13, the Italian city has rolled out a series of initiatives to address unsustainable tourism and overcrowding at top attractions.

The new initiatives include people counters at some of the city's most popular spots and a website that tracks wait times at various locations. The city also plans to produce and distribute new maps that spotlight lesser-known attractions—in an attempt to encourage visitors to fan out from established tourist centers. 

Most of the initiatives went into place this month. 

Specifically, Venice now will monitor the number of visitors at sites around the main tourist zones, including Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte di Calatrava, and the three old stone bridges crossing the Rio Nuovo. 

A story on The Local, a popular local blog, said that while there will be no specific cap on visitor numbers to start, the figures will be shared in real time through the city’s website and social media.

That same article said the city’s transport ticket will be updated to cover the whole metropolitan area, and the new maps will pinpoint facilities such as picnic areas and public restrooms to deter tourists from using monuments for such purposes.

Additional stories on the new policies suggested still other changes.

One, from the Independent, a U.K. newspaper, cited reports from local Italian-language newspapers that indicated the city soon may charge admission to Piazza San Marco.

Another, from HuffPost UK, hinted that officials also reportedly are mulling limits on the number of new hotels and accommodations, starting with a serious crackdown on apartment shares and vacation rentals through services such as Airbnb. 

The push for European cities to manage overcrowding and tourism growth is nothing new. Travel Weekly reported on the issue at the beginning of the year. Last month, Barcelona enacted new restrictions on apartment shares and other tourist accommodations and promulgated a plan to more evenly distribute tourist crowds around the city. 

In Venice, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has spoken publicly since his election in 2015 about “cracking down on the tourism industry” and said last week that the new measures were designed to make tourist flows “compatible with the everyday lives of residents.”

Brugnaro’s crusade began formally last April, when the city introduced a locals-first boarding policy for water buses and launched a separate queue for tourists. 

Last summer, Venice was plastered with fliers that said, essentially, “Tourists go away!” 

The takeaway: Keep exploring, but be respectful. Places like Venice are one of a kind. The only way to keep them that way is to follow the rules.

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