Italy’s top destinations have become so popular with day visitors that the tourist authorities are coming up with innovative ways to prevent overcrowding. Does Venice have the solution?
Italy is renowned for its beautiful historic city centres and charming coastal villages. At Italy’s top destinations day visitors can discover history, art, and amazing architecture at every turn. Parts of Florence, Venice and Rome are like an open-air museum. The Amalfi coast and Cinque Terre attract millions of people, all trying to get a look at those amazing coastal views. But, what do you do when Italy’s top destinations become too popular?
Residents pay the price
These ancient towns and villages, with their quaint narrow streets weren’t designed for cars or high volumes of foot traffic. Day visitors can spend several hours enjoying the sights without spending a euro. But ultimately, local residents’ foot the bill for the cleaning and maintenance of their streets and buildings. It’s great to own property in a top destination, but when visitors fill the streets outside your door, it can take some of the sparkle away from everyone’s enjoyment of the place.
Venice attempts to ease the flow
Venice is one of Italy’s top destinations for day visitors. Home owners and the authorities in Venice have been discussing the problem of over crowding on its walkways and bridges for years. In 2021 they stopped large cruise ships docking near the historic part of the town, to protect the city’s lagoon ecosystem and cultural heritage. Large cruise ships now have to dock at the nearby port of Marghera. However, smaller cruise vessels can still dock in the city and pass through the Giudecca Canal. They also tried encouraging visitors to venture off the well worn routes and using turn-styles to regulate the flow of pedestrians. But still the people keep flooding in.
Venice has a new idea
Their latest plan, is to ask visitors to book in advance online and pay for a QR code that enables them to enter Venice. There will be discounts offered for early booking and if you are visiting on quiet days. If you enter the city without booking first you could be fined. Those booking for a popular date, such as when there is a big event on, will pay the full €10 entry fee. While at quieter times you will still need to book, but might pay just a few euros. Hopefully this will be a good incentive for day visitors to plan their trips for quieter times.
Booking to enter Venice
Venice will be trialing the booking system in August 2021. The idea of the municipal administration is to offer discounts to move around Venice by public transport on the water, and provide reduced tickets prices for museums.
Currently you can buy a Venezia Unica City Pass on the official Venice tourism website. By purchasing this in advance you can buy tickets for public transport and entrance to places of interest, and get discounts. Then when you arrive you just collect your card and from then on you only need to show a code.
Paying to enter Venice
The payment of the entry fee with your booking won’t come into force until January 2023. These small payments should help generate some money towards the upkeep of the city. Those visiting the surrounding islands such as Burano and Murano will also have to pre-book and pay. The entry fee will apply only to day visitors, not to those staying the night in Venice, who already pay a tourist tax. Property owners and residents won’t be charged either.
How will day visitors book tickets for Venice?
An online booking system in multiple languages will be available in the autumn for visitors to pre-book their trip to Venice. Upon booking, visitors will receive a QR code that acts as their ticket and should be shown to ticket controllers. Visitors are encouraged to book in advance as ticket prices could be lower for early bookings.
How many people visit Venice?
Prior to the pandemic tourist numbers to Venice were rising each year. According to “Statista”, in 2010 there were 3,708,0000 arrivals, by 2019 it had risen to 5,523,000. On its busiest days, around 120,000 people visit Venice, which is home to around 50,000 permanent residents.
Why have the numbers increased?
The rapid growth of low-cost flights and Venice’s popularity with cruise ship passengers has added to the visitor numbers over the years. There are two airports nearby. Venice Marco Polo (VCE) is the main airport, located around six km (four miles) north of the city on the edge of the lagoon. Treviso Airport is located 25 miles (40 km) north of Venice and is mainly used by low-cost airlines. Tourists staying in other parts of Veneto and Croatia often come to Venice for the day.
Holiday rental portals now make it easy for property owners to rent out their homes or a room to tourists. These visitors are welcomed as they contribute to the local economy through a tourist tax and spend money in its restaurants and shops. Although, communities do need to maintain a certain level of permanent residents too.
Rise in house prices
The demand for properties to rent out does push up the house prices, making them unaffordable for many local people. The average price per metre square in Venice is currently €2,882. What has a worse affect is when people buy a property as an investment and leave it sat empty. Italian homes need to be lived in, with its residents contributing to the local community and economy.
Italy’s top destinations don’t want to end up like Disneyland, they understand that visitors like to see local people going about their day, following ancient traditions and doing crafts. It’s great to see the old men sat in the piazza chatting, and smell the aroma of their wives cooking wafting from their homes. It’s lovely to spot a wedding party coming out of the church and to see young children playing in the street. By newcomers creating work for the locals, hopefully they’ll be able to stay.
Property for sale in Venice
To fully appreciate Venice you should experience evenings there, after the day visitors have gone home. Apartments can be found for sale in the residential areas starting at around €180,000. Nearer to Saint Mark’s Square you could be paying well over a million.
Traffic along the Amalfi Coast
Another of Italy’s top destinations for tourists is The Amalfi Coast. Known for it’s candy coloured villages, stunning cliffs and breath taking views from the roads that wind along the coast it has been a popular holiday destination for centuries. However, these roads can get very busy during the summer, with tourists trying to catch the best views as they drive along.
How is Amalfi reducing the traffic?
In order to halve the dangerous traffic, the region has introduced new rules to the famous 35 kilometre stretch between Vietri sul Mare and Positano. During peak hours in peak season, drivers will have to obey a new alternate number plate system.
If your car’s number plate ends in an odd number, you will be able to access the road on odd number days. If your number plate ends in an even number, you will be able to access the road on even number days. This should also halve the number of day visitors into the villages and make it easier to park.
When the Amalfi rules apply
The Amalfi regulations will apply from 10am to 6pm on weekends from mid-June through to the end of September 2022. They will apply for all of August, and during the Easter Holy Week holiday. Public buses, and taxis are exempt, as are residents of the thirteen towns on this stretch of road.
No one likes being stuck behind a caravan, especially on a winding cliff road. Anas, the authority which manages the roads, has now banned vehicles over 10.36 metres long. Caravans and vehicles with trailers will only be able to use this stretch of road between midnight and 6:30am.
Public transport to Amalfi
The closest airport to Amalfi is Naples Capodichino International Airport. To reach Amalfi you can use taxis, or from Naples central station you can catch buses or the train to Salerno. Alternatively, ferries run from Molo Beverello. Contact the Amalfi tourist office for more information.
Property along the Amalfi Coast
Properties along the Amalfi Coast don’t come cheap, but the incredible scenery continues to attract the rich and famous. Houses with sea views are much sort after by house buyers and tourists.
Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL)
Other cities affected by mass tourism will be watching closely to see if Venice’s pioneering system works. Some already have zoned traffic restrictions in place in the historic centres to protect the buildings from pollution and to enable pedestrians and cyclists to get around safely. More park and ride schemes are also popping up.
A ZTL is a Limited Traffic Zone, where access to vehicles is controlled thanks to special permits. You have to be very careful not to drive into these zones at specific times of day as camera’s read number plates and issue fines to those without a permit. Better to park and walk or bus in.
ZTL in Florence
Many towns in Tuscany have these zones, including Florence. If you plan to drive to Florence, first look on the Visit Florence website, to learn about the various zones. Another complication when driving in Florence are the preferential lanes for public buses, ambulances, police cars, taxis etc. It’s easier to park on the outskirts and bus in.
Museums and galleries
Most Italian museums have an entry fee and a booked time slot. In theory this should help prevent the museums and galleries becoming too busy and help control the flow. Early morning on a weekday is usually the quietest time to go.
Free Sundays are back at State Museums
State Museum’s are just about to reinstate free entry on the first Sunday of each month, beginning on the 7th August 2022. These free days have been very popular in the past and could get very busy. To restrict the numbers you may find that some museums now need to be prebooked for a time slot. A list of participating museums is on the Government’s Culture website.
Despite the fact that you can’t drive in the villages of Cinque Terre, many tourists still arrive by train and boat. As well as visiting the colourful villages, visitors can enjoy walking the many footpaths. The most popular nature walks have views of the sea and coastline. Some of the routes you have to pay to walk along, but they can still get busy. Discussions are in progress to restrict numbers on these paid routes. An app has been created with a map of the trails, so that people can plan their visit ( Apple Store , Google Play ). You can also compare the free and paid trails on the Best of Cinque Terre website.
Avoid the crowds
Italy has so many beautiful cities and seaside villages, it seems astounding that tourists concentrate on just a few. I recommend exploring some of the other towns and cities, such as Verona, Bologna, Lecce, Turin and Matera. Often, you will find that if you travel just thirty minutes down the road from a top destination, you’ll discover a less crowded and cheaper town. These less touristy towns are where the Italians choose to live and are generally more authentic Italian and friendly.
When visiting popular towns, try and go out of season and choose the quieter days and times. A few years ago I went to Florence for a few days midweek, in October. I pre-booked my visits to the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace for the earliest possible time in the morning, so that we were first walking around, and it was very quiet. The Hop-and- Off tour buses were also excellent for seeing further out from the centre. You will also find accommodation and transport cheaper out of season. My flight from Brindisi to Pisa was only €20.00.