When you think of Venice, images that immediately spring to mind are the beautiful canals, picturesque buildings, and countless gondolas. What you don’t tend to think of are the 60,000 people who are visiting daily, along with the congested streets and pressing environmental issues which Venice is currently facing.
So, what are Venice officials doing to combat this and protect the suffering city? To cope with the millions of people who continue to visit the not-so-hidden gem annually, Venice introduced a campaign in 2017, #EnjoyRespectVenezia, listing twelve ‘golden rules’ tourists must follow whilst visiting to help maintain the city’s image. Some of these rules are seemingly-obvious, such as refraining from dropping litter and swimming in the canals, but others seem to take the city’s ‘protection from tourists’ to a whole new level. One rule states that it is prohibited for tourists to pause too long on bridges.
To enforce these rules is a group of stewards, recognisable by their shirts, printed with the campaign name #EnjoyRespectVenezia. They aim to spot uncivilized tourist behaviour and respond accordingly. Depending on a vote to be carried out very soon by Venice officials, this could potentially mean the handing out of fines of up to 500 euros. The stewards have also been appointed to monitor the busiest areas of the city on Friday mornings in an attempt to aid the local police. And the excuse “I don’t understand, I don’t speak Italian” is futile – it is a requirement that these stewards speak English so that they can converse with offending tourists.
Although an attempt to protect this beloved destination from mass tourism seems admirable, some of these pedantic rules which may come with expensive consequences have some members of the public thinking that all of this is perhaps going a bit too far. After a recent trip to Venice in September in which I spent the entire trip unaware of the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, it is likely that many offences are continuing to be committed as a result of a lack of awareness. Although common sense and a level of respectful behaviour should keep tourists from committing most transgressions, rules such as those dictating where not to eat food or the prohibition of loud noise between 1pm and 3pm (siesta time), may be more difficult to navigate – and the consequence of paying a hefty fine for such an easy mistake very frustrating.
Pragmatic councillor and Venice’s chief of tourism, Paola Mar, claims that these fines are completely reasonable and, in fact, necessary. She believes that when word spreads about fines being issued, tourists will pay more attention to the rules and will be more respectful. However, whether these hefty fines will ultimately be introduced is still up in the air.
So, if you intend to visit Venice in the near future make sure you are well-aware of those 12 golden rules – or if not, make sure you have some extra savings with you just in case!