Years-long arguments between Venetian locals, Italian authorities, and the UN come to a head
Italy has officially banned all cruise ship travel to Venice, beginning on August 1st. Venice lagoon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the UN has been attempting to block high-capacity ships from entering the lagoon for years, saying it puts the site in danger. So far, the Venice tourism industry has done everything in it's power to halt such a ban, but protestors and the UN finally convinced Rome to ban access to the Giudecca Canal for any vessel weighing more than 25,000 tons.
Until Covid-19 shut down the tourism industry, cruise ships were able to pass through the Giudecca Canal, getting within 1000ft of the historic St. Mark's Basilica in the incredible Piazza San Marco. Since regulations have been lifted cruise ships have once again begun entering the lagoon, prompting large-scale protests from many residents, who say pollution and waves from the ships erode the historical waterfront buildings and damage the ecosystem of the lagoon. Things finally came to a head when UNESCO threatened to black-list Italy if they did not act to ban the cruise ships from the fragile area.
Locals are of mixed opinions. Many are celebrating the ban, but others are afraid that it will harm the livelihoods of those who rely on the tourism industry, which is only just beginning it's recovery from Covid-19. Locals who work in the cruise industry will be eligible for lay-off benefits, but there is no recourse for those who live off of the cruise ships going through the heart of the city.
Italy attempted a compromise to secure tourism in the area in April of 2021 by approving the construction of a cruise and container ship terminal just outside the Venice lagoon in order to give closer access for those ships and hopefully safeguard the lagoon. However, bids for the construction are just now being submitted and there is no estimated date of completion for the terminal.
Rome approved a special commissioner to fast-track a plan for retrofitting the industrial port of Marghera, which bypasses the Giudecca Canal, for it to be used as a temporary dock for cruise ships until the new terminal is built. Environmental activists are against this as well since it is still within the lagoon, is a part of the same ecosystem, and will require digging to make it deep and wide enough to accommodate large cruise ships. Italian authorities have not announced a date of completion for the modifications, but the cruise ship industry is hoping to have it ready for the 2022 season. In the meantime, ships over 25,000 tons have no options but to halt travel to the city.
Although sailing on a large cruise ship while overlooking St. Mark's Basilica will no longer be possible as a travel experience, there are still a number of ways to enjoy Venice! Flights to Venice Marco Polo Airport have resumed and Americans need only show a proof of vaccination for entry into Italy. There are also a number of yacht and small cruise options to access the city. With the amount of tourism for the area going down in the coming months due to the lack of cruise ships, there was never a better time to visit Venice and experience it more privately. Contact us today to begin planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to explore the incredible beauty of Venice!