The Italian government has announced the permanent ban of large cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon, after several years of protests, petitions, and threats of being put on UNESCO’s endangered list. The ban will be effective as of August 1st, 2021, and will prohibit ships exceeding 180 meters in length or weighing 25,000 tons from entering the lagoon, hoping to sustain Venice's historic canals, waterways, and public squares.
The Venice cruise ships have already been a source of controversy for years, with an ongoing campaign led by the 'No Grandi Navi' (No Big Ships) protest group and petitions by international architects and artists. Many regulations have been put in place over the years to reduce the number of ships arriving in Venice. However, as these ships provide significant contributions to the economy, there was never a substantial decision.
A few years ago, over 50 leading figures from architecture, art, film and fashion - Including Norman Foster, the director of London's National Gallery Nicholas Penny, and the director of the Guggenheim Foundation Richard Armstrong, have signed a petition pleading Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini to keep large cruise ships out of Venice. The petition was created by the UNESCO-backed Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice, and explains that not only are the ships are an "aesthetic intrusion" to the city, but they also create a "probable risk of catastrophe" to the fragile Lagoon surrounding Venice.
The city has been battling rising water levels and floods for centuries. In November 2019, Venice has been inundated with the city's worst floods in half a century; Photographs and videos showed the city’s iconic St Mark’s Square underwater, with a 2-meter-high surge threatening irreparable damage to historic sites such as Saint Mark’s Basilica. There are several factors that make Venice particularly prone to flooding, such as rising sea levels around the coastal city due to climate change, and the sinking of the city itself by approximately one millimeter per year due to the soft, moving terrain on which it is built.
Venice is currently hosting it's 17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale Di Venezia from May 22 to November 21, 2021. Titled How Will We Live Together? The exhibition is curated by Hashim Sarkis and features 112 participants from 46 countries, with 60 national participants in the Giardini and the Arsenale.