Following several initiatives to tackle the tourism and architectural heritage crisis, Venice authorities have announced that as of January 16th, 2023, visitors will have to book a visiting slot and an entrance fee to see the historic canal city. The newly proposed ticketing system, which is claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, hopes to control its "over-tourism" crisis, a challenge that has been affecting the lagoon's ecosystem, urban development, and local population.
The entrance fee, which will vary from €3 to €10 depending on the season, will apply only to day visitors and not to those staying overnight in the city as they already pay a tourist tax. The local council has stated that there will be no limit to the number of daily visitors but will increase the entrance fee once a certain number of visitors is reached on any particular day. All of the money obtained from these fees will be used for the costs of running the system, maintenance, cleaning, and other services.
Venice has been battling rising water levels and floods for centuries, witnessing its worst floods in half a century in 2019. Venice managed to avoid being listed as part of the at-risk UNESCO heritage sites, due to its recent ban on cruise ships. Over the past 7 years, UNESCO has considered adding the city to the list of World Heritage sites in danger multiple times due to numerous complications such as over-tourism, depopulation, the deterioration of the lagoon ecosystem, and poor urban development management.
Last year, the Italian government announced the permanent ban of large cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon. The ban was effective as of August 1st, 2021, and prohibits ships exceeding 180 meters in length or weighing 25,000 tons from entering the lagoon, as a means of sustaining Venice's historic canals, waterways, and public squares. Venetian cruise ships have long been a source of controversy, with an ongoing campaign led by the 'No Grandi Navi' (No Big Ships) protest group and petitions by international architects and artists.
Venice officials have also decided to replace the glass on Santiago Calatrava’s Ponte della Costituzione with stone, after "the bridge [has] required constant maintenance unforeseen," as reported by the New York Times in 2019. Several attempts were done prior to the decision, such as using resin and non-slip stickers, as well as placing keep-off signs on the glass surface during the winter, yet none seemed to permanently avoid pedestrian accidents. Along with its finishing, the bridge has been the subject of controversy, as its construction costs and timeframe exceeded the initial estimates.”
From May 20th to November 26th, 2023, Venice will be hosting the 18th International Architecture Exhibition under the title of: The Laboratory of the Future. Curated by Lesley Lokko, the theme and title of this edition invites “architects and practitioners across an expanded field of creative disciplines [to] draw out examples from their contemporary practices that chart a path for the audience to weave through, imagining for themselves what the future can hold”.
Update: After this article was published, Calatrava International LLC declared to ArchDaily that "In the daily use of the bridge, the inadequate use of certain heavy elements (mainly forbidden luggage carts) or even acts of vandalism have led to the breaking of some glass panes of the original flooring, which unfortunately were later replaced with inadequate glass. In the current situation, our office supports the Municipality's substitution of glass panes for trachyte stone paving slabs, consistent with the bridge design and the surrounding cityscape to maintain its beauty and functionality."