In the latest episode of a long-running drama, the Italian cabinet this week approved a law banning large cruise ships from entering the historic center of Venice.

According to the Government, the measure seeks to strike a balance between the protection of the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice and its lagoon and the needs of cruise activities and freight traffic.

Founded in the 5th century. Founded in the 13th century and spread over 118 small islands surrounded by a shallow lagoon, Venice became a major naval power over a thousand years ago. The city and its lagoon are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, which describes Venice as an exceptional architectural masterpiece, where even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

A final attempt to combat excessive tourism in Venice

The ban on large cruise ships is the city’s latest attempt to control tourism. Venice has less than 60,000 inhabitants, and another 200,000 in the surrounding area. Before the pandemic, about 25 million people a year came to experience the wonders of the city, with about 20% staying overnight.

READ MORE: 5 things to do in Venice on a cruise ship

In 2018, Venice will impose a tax on all visitors to the city centre, in addition to the existing tax on overnight visitors. Previous attempts to keep mega-ships out of the Venice lagoon have been thwarted in part by frequent changes of government in one European country.

Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, said on Twitter that the ban on cruise ships over 40,000 gross tons was the right decision people had waited years for. He said visitors are often shocked by the ridiculous sight of cruise ships hundreds of feet long and as tall as apartment buildings passing in front of St. Mark’s Square.

Koningsdam in Venice, Italy (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

Cruise ship derailment in 2019 Provoked confrontation

Activists were not only concerned with aesthetics. Some complain that large ships have degraded the ecosystem of the shallow lagoon and fear for its safety, exacerbated by a 2019 accident in which the 900-foot-long ship MSC Opera collided with a tourist pier and a river cruise pier, injuring four people.

READ MORE: Is this the information cruiser the CDC was waiting for?

Due to the global pandemic, no cruise ships have been coming to Venice for over a year. When the cruise returns, large ships will no longer be allowed to dock in the famous square and will have to find new berths outside the lagoon.

In the short term, the government wants to direct cruise ships to the port of Margera, the industrial center of the lagoon that is about 10 km from the city center. The long-term goal is to build a permanent cruise terminal at the entrance to Lido Lagoon, but that could take years.

Industrial building in Porto Marghera (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/ringk).

One of the key players in the long-running battle to ban large ships is the Komitato Nograndinawi – in English: No committee for large ships. The band celebrated the win on their Facebook page.

After nine years of struggle, nine years of mobilisations, marches, initiatives and legal proceedings against activists, the government has for the first time sided with the city: Large ships are not compatible with the Venice lagoon, the group said.

Robust solution – the years seem to have flown by.

A long-term solution to a long-standing problem is likely to be found in a few years. Critics say the temporary docking plan at Margera is inadequate. They want a complete ban on large ships in the lagoon.

And Cesare De Piccoli, the former Venetian lawmaker investigating the case, says even Marghera’s temporary solution would not be attractive to cruise passengers.

There are tourists who think they want to see the Basilica of San Marco, but they end up in front of an oil refinery, Mr. De Piccoli told the New York Times.

Italy’s transport ministry said the cruise ship ban was the first step in permanently solving the problem of large ships in the city.

frequently asked questions

Are cruise ships allowed in Venice?

This year, restrictions on international travel due to the coronavirus are forcing cruise lines to postpone most trips until 2021. … For years they have been calling for cruise ships to be banned from Venice, fearing pollution and lasting damage to the city’s fragile foundations.

When were cruise ships banned in Venice?

In 2013, the government banned ships over 96,000 tons from passing through the Giudecca Canal, but the law has since been overturned.

Has Italy banned cruise ships?

The Italian authorities have decided to bar cruise ships from entering the historic centre of Venice. The country’s culture minister said Wednesday that the decision followed a request from the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO.

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