September 21, 2020

Italy is crowded with tourists

In front of the old shipyard of Venice have installed a beach. Dozens of people compete in their towels for a few square centimeters of sand. Some look at the phone and others take the sun carefree, when suddenly they start a choral song from which emerges a desperate cry against climate change and the action of the human being in Nature. The melody goes up the tone, until they are silent and everyone returns to their affairs. This is the "performance" that can be seen in the pavilion of Lithuania, winner this year at the Biennial of Art, which is held these days in Venice. The contest is entitled "May you live in interesting times" (or hopefully live interesting times) and aims to provoke a reflection on current problems. On the beach of the Lithuanian delegation warn of the apocalypse in a calm way, without anyone being disturbed or doing anything to avoid it.

Beyond the Show something similar happens. Venice is a city that every year 12 million tourists arrive, according to official data, although other agencies raise this figure to 30 million, counting those who come with organized trips, spend a few hours and leave. This figure would mean an average of 82,000 visitors each day, for the 52,000 inhabitants of the historic center. At a pharmacy in Campo San Bartolomeo years ago they installed an accountant to keep track of the countdown, since annually about a thousand Venetians opt for exile. The massive tourist exploitation has accelerated an exodus, for which the population has been left in less than one third of the 174,000 residents it came to have in 1951.

Venice was then a cultural center within the reach of a few. That year they went through the red carpet of their film festival Akira Kurosawa, Jean Renoir or Vivian Leigh, stars who stepped on the city, climbed the gondolas and left money, always remember their merchants. Today the "celebrities" are still coming, although they have changed the paparazzi rank for Instagram. The problem is that they lock themselves in their luxury hotels and have little contact with those who could have sold them a bouquet of flowers or served a coffee. In return, these have to do business with customers of AirBnb, which has the first European city in Venice by volume of revenue and has doubled its apartments in the last five years, according to data compiled by the citizen committee Italia Nostra. This group, which looks after the Italian heritage, He has sent a letter to Unesco for Venice to be added to his list of cities in danger.

The Trevi Fountain, in the center of Rome, has witnessed unusual images, like that of two families fighting (literally) for the turn to take a photograph at the monument

The hypothesis has been valued for years, but until now there have only been extensions, waiting for the authorities to approve measures to alleviate the situation. It would be another call for help, to put Venice on the level of the cities at war or that have just emerged from a conflict. "It would have no practical consequences, but symbolic, with what we think would have a strong impact," says Lidia Fersuoch president of Italy Nostra Venice. The first claim is the oldest of all: prohibit large-tonnage ships from passing through the lagoon, the area surrounding the entire historic center. It is not only a matter of avoiding the massive tourist landings, but the environmental aspect. The port of Venice is the most polluted in Italy and the third in Europe, behind Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca.

The accident that caused a cruise a month ago, which hit a small boat in the Giudecca Canal and left four people slightly injured, and the one that was about to happen last week in a very similar episode have become the best allies of those who want to veto the entrance of the large ships to the Laguna. However, disputes between the Government and the local administration persist. The city has installed lathes that close when the influx to the most crowded places is excessive and since the beginning of the century has been building a system of dams to avoid the dreaded high water. But neither is enough to stop the flood of people who pass every day through its crowded streets.

The problem is that cities near the sea (in the image, Venice) become too crowded


It will be because of the channels and the game of illusions that they generate, that Venice has become a distorted mirror of a situation that is repeated throughout the country. According to the global report of the World Tourism Organization of 2018, Italy is fifth in the ranking of foreign tourists, with 58 million. But it does not only happen in Venice. Strolling through the streets of Rome, Florence or, above all, the small towns that appear in the guides with the qualification of "essentials" can kill the most hard-working tourist. It is surprising that Spain welcomes many more foreigners -82 million-and the result does not seem so overwhelming. Antonio Pezzano, coordinator of the European Destinations of Excellence program (EDEN) -dependent of the European Commission-, responds that this is because "in Spain, tourism is very concentrated in the islands, beaches and Barcelona as a great city; while in Italy it is distributed throughout the territory ». In addition, 80% of nationals do not cross borders during their vacations.

It is true that in 2018 the most picturesque Italian villages received 23 million foreigners. ¿Who does not have a brother-in-law who has told him that he has been to the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Capri or Sardinia and has loved it? Add to the list of fashionable places the coasts of Puglia or Matera, which this year is the European City of Culture. What they may not tell you are the queues they had to wait or the plausible risk of entering a restaurant, since it seems impossible to eat badly in this country and find the exception to the rule. In all these places, visitors multiply the local population not only in the summer months, but throughout the year. That's why a group called Slow Tourism emerged, which is dedicated to putting quality stamps on the accommodations that promote a model for which the guest does not run, makes a collection of selfies and shoots off. "The tourism that we are currently seeing puts at risk the good brand that Italy has always had, which is why we are betting on the future in improving the hotel and accommodation of the country," says its president, Luciano Lauteri.

From neorealism to reality

Venice sneaks down the drain, Rome succumbs with public services already insufficient for the Romans and in Florence, the homeland of Dante, now the official language is English. "We have become accustomed to seeing cities like this and we have not done anything. Local administrations should value the lesser known heritage, which is immense, and try to recover the monuments that we will all see, without being able to observe, "says Anna Scalise, vice president of the Italian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property. Years ago it was in the public debate to limit access to certain congested areas, but in most cases it has been ruled out because of the difficulties in applying it. In the middle of the last century, with the country devastated after the Second World War, the directors left the Cineccità studios to show the rawness of the streets. It was called neorealism and with it began two decades of a fabulous cinema that has marked the collective imaginary of the country until today. Now, what tourists usually see in their cities call reality, although it seems more like a movie studio.

(tagsToTranslate) ismael monzón

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