Tourists descending on Venice for the long May Day weekend can expect some major transit changes enacted in order to preserve the city, while also keeping local residents happy.
For years, Venetians have been torn between the need to save their unique surroundings, keeping it livable for the dwindling resident population, while also continuing to welcome millions of tourists every year.
Trying to channel the flow of tourists, who gravitate towards the famous landmarks of Saint Mark's Basilica and the Rialto Bridge, has remained a challenge. More than 200,000 flooded the historic city over Easter weekend and with the good weather, even more could arrive for the upcoming international labor day.
With local hotels reporting near capacity bookings, the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, has decided to take urgent action and test a new system of channeling the hordes expected to descend on the lagoon islands and clog up canal routes.
Brugnaro has ordered that from Saturday into next week, police can direct tourist flows on route to the Venice islands and moving about the scenic canals and tourist attractions. Furthermore, special excursion boats from the mainland, that normally dock near St. Mark’s, will be forced to dock away from the main sights.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Brugnaro said, "The city needs to remain livable for those who live and work here. We will study these occasions to work on finding the optimum solution for the future."
Tourist arrivals will be tracked attentively with street cameras, allowing police to block off various entry points to the main island, canal walkways or streets. If some become too crowded, these will be closed off and tourists rerouted other ways.
All Venice residents, holders of resident transport cards, will be allowed to move freely without any restrictions.
"We want to defend and save Venice," the mayor said. "It is a duty we have taken on [with Unesco, but above all] with our residents…Venice is delicate. If they respect the city, they are welcome."
But Brugnaro added, "We want to let people know that there are certain days the city will be crowded and we want to control the flows in different ways and move the crowds in different directions."
Paola Mar, Venice city councilor for Tourism, told ABC News today that "this is an important occasion to try and test a solution to deal with tourist flows. We hope that Venice will open the way for other famous cities known for their art works, like Florence and Rome, and we hope that our effort will allow that both residents and guests can live our city in a better way."