Campaigners say Italian city’s remaining residents feel ‘suffocated’ by effects of tourism
The remaining inhabitants of Venice’s historic centre said they fear becoming like “relics in an open museum” now that the population is expected to drop below 50,000 for the first time.
Once the heart of a powerful maritime republic, Venice’s main island has lost more than 120,000 residents since the early 1950s, driven away by myriad issues but mainly a focus on mass tourism that has caused the population to be dwarfed by the thousands of visitors who crowd its squares, bridges and narrow walkways each day.
Venessia.com, an activist group that for years has campaigned to preserve Venice’s heritage, has kept track of the population decline and said the figure, now at 50,011, would fall below 50,000 by Friday.
“We don’t have a precise number but, according to our calculations, and using data from the civil registry, it will go below 50,000,” said Matteo Secchi, who leads Venessia.com. “We have been warning about this for years … we don’t want to give up, but no administration has managed to reverse the trend.”
Secchi said that those who remain feel “suffocated” by an “economic machine” that has focused on tourism. He said it had left residents grappling with a high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing, and led to businesses that sell essential items being replaced by souvenir shops.
“Tourism is a double-edged sword because you take money but at the same time you expel all the activities and space for [the residents],” said Secchi, who described Venice as “a cash machine”. “There are those who are not from here but own a home, rent it out and then spend the money elsewhere.”
Venice authorities this year announced a plan to attract remote workers to the city, but it appears to have made little impact. “This kind of thing is OK, but we need an epochal change and for the council to bring in significant measures, such as offering financial incentives to property owners who, say, only rent to Venetians,” said Secchi. “The danger is that we are becoming extinct, soon we will be like relics in an open museum.”
This is an excerpt from an article by Angela Giuffrida published earlier by The Guardian.