As the pandemic chased away visitors, some Venetians allowed themselves to dream of a different city — one that belonged as much to them as to the tourists who crowd them out of their stone piazzas, cobblestone alleyways and even their apartments.
In a quieted city, the chiming of its 100 bell towers, the lapping of canal waters and the Venetian dialect suddenly became the dominant soundtrack. The cruise ships that disgorged thousands of day-trippers and caused damaging waves in the sinking city were gone, and then banned.
But now, the city’s mayor is taking crowd control to a new level, pushing high-tech solutions that alarm even many of those who have long campaigned for a Venice for Venetians.
The city’s leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding. Next summer, they plan to install long-debated gates at key entry points; visitors coming only for the day will have to book ahead and pay a fee to enter. If too many people want to come, some will be turned away.
The conservative and business-friendly mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, and his allies say their aim is to create a more livable city for beleaguered Venetians.
“Either we are pragmatic, or we live in the world of fairy tales,” said Paolo Bettio, who heads Venis, the company that handles the city’s information technology.
But many residents see the plans to monitor, and control, people’s movements as dystopian — and either a publicity stunt or a way to attract wealthier tourists, who might be discouraged from coming by the crowds.
“It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said Giorgio Santuzzo, 58, who works as a photographer and artist in the city.
This is an excerpt from an article by Emma Bubola, originally published by The New York Times.