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Venice access fee: what is it and how much does it cost? | Venice


After years in the making, Venice will on Thursday begin charging day trippers to enter the city in an effort to protect the Unesco world heritage site from the effects of over-tourism.

While the measure has ignited criticism and derision from some, who argue it is unconstitutional and restrictive of freedom of movement – the Venice mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, has compared his “bravery” in enacting the charge to that of the Venetian explorer Marco Polo, in daring to go where others have feared to tread.

In some ways this is true: Venice will become the first major city in the world to adopt such an initiative, and others grappling with the impact of mass tourism are keenly observing.

However, will this bold experiment work in practice? Will it help save Venice, a uniquely beautiful city that campaigners have warned for decades is in peril? And – most importantly, perhaps, for anyone looking to book their trip – how do you buy your tickets?

Why is this being introduced?

According to Simone Venturini, the city’s councillor for tourism, Venice “affixed itself” to mass tourism in the 1960s and since then visitor numbers have surged to the point that during the busiest periods of the year it attracts an average of 40,000 people a day.

That number has put pressure on the fragile lagoon, while pushing residents away from the main island. Brugnaro said he wanted to make Venice “livable” again.

However, the final push to enact the measure came after Unesco threatened last year to put Venice on its list of heritage sites in danger, citing mass tourism and rising water levels attributed to climate change.

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While Venice has moved to counter mass tourism in recent years by banning huge cruise ships from chugging through its centre, the city only escaped the potential shame of losing its Unesco status after the access charge was agreed.

How much is the charge and who has to pay?

The “Venice access fee” costs €5 (£4.30). It could be worse – when the idea was first suggested it was €10. Only day trippers have to pay. Residents, commuters, students and children under 14 are exempt, as are tourists who stay overnight. Critics of the scheme say the €5 is unlikely to deter many people.

How do I buy a ticket, and on which dates is one required?

The tickets are bookable online and apply on 29 peak dates between 25 April and 14 July. The dates are listed on the site. You will be provided with a QR code on your phone – guard it as this is the proof that you have paid the fee.

A calendar of the paying days to visit Venice. The Venice access fee costs €5 (£4.30). Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Hang on, Venice is a massive place with dozens of islands. Where exactly does it apply?

The charge applies only to those entering the historic centre of Venice between 8.30am and 4pm on any of the peak dates. That includes the Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square, La Fenice opera house and many other top-drawer tourist attractions, as well as quieter neighbourhoods such as the island of Giudecca.

What if I arrive in Venice without the QR code or I don’t have access to a mobile phone?

Fear not. When you arrive in Venice, says the council, be it by train, bus, or boat, stewards wearing white bibs featuring the city’s logo will guide you through buying the ticket online and downloading the QR code.

Those without a phone can pay at water taxi stations or in tabacchi shops, Venturini says.

The five key entrance points are Venezia Santa Lucia train station, bus terminals at Piazzale Roma and Tronchetto, and vaporetti (water bus) stops at Zattere and the Riva degli Schiavoni, the waterfront that covers the entrance to St Mark’s Square.

How will the measure be implemented?

Brugnaro has promised the system will be imposed with “very soft controls” and “without queues”, rejecting speculation the city would be installing barriers or turnstiles in the streets.

In effect, the authorities hope the measure will be implemented by means of a fleet of 180 personnel, made up of volunteer stewards, council staff and public officials. Those wearing white bibs are there to inform, while those wearing yellow bibs are there to do random checks and have the power to issue fines for those without a QR code.

Venturini said that if you arrived without one and did not approach someone in a white bib for information, and you were then spot-checked by someone in a yellow bib, you would risk being fined.

And how bad are the penalties?

Fines range from €50 to €300. “Don’t worry, nobody will be arrested for not having paid the fee,” said a council spokesperson.

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