Whether arriving by boat, bus, car, train, or plane, Venice, Italy’s famed floating city, has always required a little bit of extra effort to visit—and starting in spring 2024, it’s going to require a little bit of extra cash.
On September 12, Venice’s city council approved the introduction of a 5-euro (US$5.34 based on current conversion rates) entry ticket for day visitors into the city. An as-of-yet unspecified 30 days will be flagged for a trial run sometime during the spring, at which time visitors will have to purchase a ticket for entry if they want to step foot on La Serenissima.
“We need to show to the world that, for the first time, something is being done for Venice,” said city mayor Luigi Brugnaro during the September 12 council meeting. In this case, “something” means a ticketed pilot program to gauge the effects and logistics of an entry ticket in the hopes that it could potentially ameliorate Venice’s storied issues with overtourism.
The exact details, including when and how the entry ticket system will be implemented, are still TBD. Here’s what we know thus far: targeting day-tripper traffic, the city council will designate 30 historically peak tourism days during which an entry ticket will be required for anyone over 14 years of age. Payable online, the ticket will require online registration in advance and visitors will be given a QR code to carry on them.
Hotel guests, who already pay a per-night tourist tax, will be exempt. However, they will still need to register in advance online or get a QR code from the hotel. Also exempt will be Venice residents, property owners and immediate family, Veneto region residents, students of Venice, and a few others.
What we don’t yet know is exactly how the entry fee system will be monitored and enforced—some are saying that municipal police will do random checks, similar to Rome’s bus controllori—nor on which specific days it will be implemented. But authorities have said that the ticket will not be geo-tagged, Big Brother-style.
Approval of the entry ticket follows more than two years of talk, debate, and postponing, and a UNESCO recommendation to add Venice to the List of World Heritage in Danger. On September 14, UNESCO voted to spare Venice from the so-called “endangered list,” which includes approximately 55 locations that face threats such as war, natural disasters, climate change and/or unchecked tourism. Though it was once again spared, it’s not the first time Venice has seen its UNESCO protected status threatened.
Venice has experienced a steady rise in visitors since the turn of the 21st century, with 2019 shattering records and 2023 looking to potentially top 2019 numbers. In 2019, nearly 13 million people visited the historic city, according to the City of Venice and Italy’s National Statistics Institute (ISTAT), drastically overshadowing the city’s 49,665 residents. To be honest, that’s not news—Venice has been overrun by tourists going back decades now. And in 2021, and after a very vocal protest from residents, environmentalists, and Venice lovers, the Italian government banned large cruise ships from Venice’s historic center. But this doesn’t mean the city no longer sees crowds pile up during the daytime. It still does.
Cramped calle (streets) and long lines to enter St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace have become signatures of the Venice experience. During high season, which stretches from March through October, mornings at Stazione Santa Lucia, Venice’s train station, can feel like Grand Central at rush hour or the final minutes before a Harry Styles concert, as visitors rush out to the Rialto and San Marco in a tight single file march.
“Venice is so much more: its artisans, its food, its museums, its art, its music, its boats, and endless other marvelous things,” says Monica Cesarato, Venice culinary guide. “I truly believe that the way to reduce the number of tourists is by educating people, not by taxing them. Nowadays people come to Venice only to take a selfie and add a tick to their bucket list. We need to educate people by using the tools we have, like social media, to research the city before coming. Once people realize how much can be done in Venice and that one or two days are not enough to discover all the incredible things that can be experienced here, then people will want to stay more and the number of day-trippers will go down.”
So far, it’s unclear exactly when the entry ticket will go into effect, and it’s not set up as the end-all solution to years-long buildup of residents’ frustrations. It has also already opened the door to questions such as whether or not there will be a limit in the number of reservations per day (the city council says there won’t be) and to concerns about whether or not it will actually curb the crowds, potentially create bottlenecks, or worse, turn the city into a theme park of sorts.
“We [are] ... aware of the urgency of finding a new balance between the rights of those who live, study, or work in Venice and those who visit the city,” deputy mayor Simone Venturini said in an email. “This is why, at certain times and on certain days, innovative flow management is required, capable of putting a brake on day-to-day tourism.”