Venice gives green light to ticket ‘experiment’ for tourists

Venice will trial a ticketing system for tourists starting in 2024, after UNESCO recommended that the city be placed on its 'endangered' list.

Venice gives green light to ticket 'experiment' for tourists
Tourists walk across St. Mark's square in Venice on July 31st, 2023. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

Venice officials agreed on Tuesday to test a fee on day tourists to the overcrowded historic centre, weeks after UNESCO warned it could list the city as an at-risk world heritage site.

The Venice city council voted in favour of a limited test, to begin next spring, of a long-debated ticketing system that critics say will nevertheless do little to stem the hordes of tourists who descend each year.

Day visitors will face a five-euro charge for entry into the historic centre.

Authorities have debated for years – without taking concrete action – over how best to regulate the millions of visitors to the famous watery city, who come anxious to see sights including St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge and its countless picturesque canals.

READ ALSO: ‘Please don’t come’: Summer tourists overwhelm ‘endangered’ Venice

But the ticketing plan has been repeatedly postponed over concerns it will seriously dent tourist revenue and compromise freedom of movement.

UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, warned in July that Venice risked “irreversible” damage due to a string of issues ranging from mass tourism to climate change, and recommended it be put on its endangered list.

“It’s a first step,” said Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who engaged in a shouting match with a crowd of a few dozen people in the council chambers ahead of the vote, calling them “violent and fascist”.

Tourists crowd the Ponte della Paglia bridge in Venice on June 5th, 2021.

Tourists crowd the Ponte della Paglia bridge in Venice on June 5th, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

His administration – which he said had shown “courage and practicality” – agreed last week to what he described as an “experiment”.

But the opposition cast the tax as a hastily arranged concession to UNESCO, while accusing the administration of failing to conduct studies over whether the fee would even work to keep tourists away.

READ ALSO: ‘Fighting for survival’: Has Venice become a city no one can live in?

“This won’t disincentivize people in the slightest from coming to Venice,” said council member Alessandro Baglioni.

“Fifty euros might have done something,” said another council member, Gianfranco Bettin.

Mass tourism

Last year, some 3.2 million tourists stayed overnight in Venice’s historic centre, according to official data – a number that does not include the thousands of daily visitors who visit just for the day.

The five-euro tax will exempt those tourists who stay at least one night in a hotel, as well as children 14 years old and younger.

The test will be spread out over up to 30 days during 2024, on particularly crowded days such as long weekends and public holidays.

READ ALSO: Why Italy needs a national plan for sustainable tourism – before it’s too late

Two years ago, Venice imposed a ban on massive cruise ships from which thousands of day-trippers emerge daily, rerouting them to a more distant industrial port.

The MSC Orchestra cruise ship leaving Venice on June 5th, 2021. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

The aim – which helped the city avoid being placed on UNESCO’s at-risk list – was to reduce damage from the large waves caused by the ships that are eroding Venice’s foundations and harming the lagoon’s fragile ecosystem.

UNESCO put Venice on its heritage list in 1987 as an “extraordinary architectural masterpiece”, but has repeatedly warned that the city needs to better manage tourism.

The recommendation that the city be added to its list of world heritage in danger will be discussed at a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Riyadh this month.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: How will Venice’s ‘tourist tax’ work?

Venice has confirmed it will trial a long-delayed ticketing system for visitors in spring 2024. But who will the fee apply to and how will it work?

EXPLAINED: How will Venice’s ‘tourist tax’ work?

Venice officials last week approved the trial of a long-delayed ‘tourist tax’ aimed at regulating crowds and lessening the impact of mass tourism on its city centre. 

But the announcement, which reportedly contributed to Venice dodging inclusion on the UNESCO list of endangered heritage sites for the second time, has left many confused as to who the entry fee will apply to, who will be exempt and how the system will be enforced.

Though future changes cannot be ruled out, especially given the project’s troubled history, this is what the city council has said so far about the incoming trial, which is presently scheduled to start next spring.

Who will the entry fee apply to?

The Venice city council has said that all day trippers over the age of 14 will have to pay the fee. But no small amount of confusion lingers over who exactly will qualify as a ‘day tripper’.

In particular, Venice officials describe turisti giornalieri as visitors who don’t “stay in one of the accommodation facilities located within the territory of the Venice municipality”.

READ ALSO: Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice

Besides hotels, it remains unclear exactly which other types of accommodation (B&Bs, hostels, holiday rentals, guest houses, etc.) will fall under the ‘accommodation facilities’ umbrella.

Gondola, Venice

A traditional gondola crosses the Grand Canal in Venice. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

Who’s exempt?

Aside from guests staying at the city’s hotels, so far the city has said a number of other categories will be exempt from paying the fee. 

Exemptions will include: 

  • Venice residents
  • People working or studying in Venice
  • Veneto residents (though they may still be required to register their trip online)
  • Second-home owners and their households
  • Partners, parents or relatives up to the third degree of kinship of people residing in Venice 

There are currently no details on how people will be asked to prove they’re entitled to the exemption.

How much is the fee?

Day trippers will be charged a flat five-euro fee to access the city’s historical centre during the 2024 trial stage.

However, it’s likely that this set-up will change once the trial’s over and the ticketing system becomes fully operative. 

As laid out in some of the earliest project plans, the council should ultimately opt for a variable-fee format, with the fee’s amount changing based on the time of the year and the number of visitors expected in the city. 

This means that the fee will be higher in peak tourist season and lower in low season.

How can I pay the fee?

According to the Venice comune, tourists will be required to pay the fee via a new online platform (also available via mobile app) that is expected to become operational next year. 

Venice, St Mark, tourists

Tourists walk across St Mark’s Square, one of Venice’s most popular attractions. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

The platform will provide visitors with a QR code, which they will then have to show to ticket officers upon entering the city. 

READ ALSO: Five ‘secret’ places in Venice you need to visit

It remains unclear where and how controls will take place, though the city council previously advanced the idea of setting up gates at the city’s main entry points.

Fines for those flouting the rules will range from 50 to 300 euros.

When will the trial start?

The Venice city council has said that the trial will be spread out over up to 30 days during 2024, but officials haven’t yet agreed on exactly which days the entry fee will kick in.

That said, it is likely that the system will be tested on particularly crowded days such as long weekends and public holidays, according to the Venice comune website.