Yesterday, July 13, the Italian government announced an imminent ban on cruise ships from Venice’s waterways, also declaring its lagoon a national monument.
The decision is a win for local activists, who have long encouraged a ban on the large vessels to curb overtourism in the face of environmental concerns. The city’s ecosystem has proved fragile in recent decades, exacerbated by climate change. In 2019, the highest floods in 50 years devastated the lagoon city, killing two. Many pointed to the Italian government for failing to protect the city’s residents and renowned architecture.
Venice is known for its artistic and architectural history and is the home to the famous Venice Biennale. After the record-breaking floods, volunteers sprang into action to salvage centuries of cultural heritage in affected libraries, museums, and churches.
The ban was catalyzed by an impending vote on UNESCO “World Heritage in Danger” sites. In 2019, the organization warned that it was “closely monitoring the state of conservation of the World Heritage site of Venice and its Lagoon.” Along with vulnerability to climate catastrophe, UNESCO identified “threats from overtourism, damage caused by a steady stream of cruise ships, and from the potential negative effects of new developments.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought temporary changes, with the boats temporarily prohibited from Venice ports. However, they have been allowed to return to the small city in recent weeks, incurring the ire of activists who protested the ships from their own small boats. The new injunction will take effect on August 1, diverting ships weighing more than 25,000 tons, taller than 115 feet, and longer than 590 feet, to a nearby industrial port.