May 8, 2024

Want to See Venice? Bring Your Water Wings and Five Euros

We boldly tackle the dilemma of “over-tourism”

By Ed Goldman

Venice—the one they keep in Italy, not Southern California—has a problem that cities around the world might envy: “over-tourism,” as one local official told the New York Times. The historic city is combating this by charging visitors, with some exceptions, five euros a pop to enter it. 

That’s about $5.35 in U.S. dollars. For comparison’s sake, an adult admission ticket to Disneyland costs from $104 to $164. You can buy much better food in Venice and ride on boats not moored to an underwater track.

Edgy Cartoon

Anyone for Venice?

Apparently, over-tourism dwarfs one of Venice’s other dilemmas, which no other city envies—namely, it’s sinking. According to the website, recent studies say that Venice is sinking “at a rate of about 1 to 2 millimeters a year, and if it keeps up this pace over the next 20 years, it will sink by around 80 millimeters relative to sea level.” 

If you’re not a metrics maven, a millimeter is about 4/100ths of an inch. This means that somewhere around the year 2044, the historic city will have sunk slightly more than three inches. That’s more than I’ve sunk in the past decade. But let’s face it, Venice is considerably older than I am. It was founded at noon on March 25, 421 A.D., whereas I was established about nine months before my out-of-body debut on November 15, 1950.

At first, Venice’s dual challenges made my problem-solving gene kick in, to wit: If the sinking problem were to continue unabated, wouldn’t that solve the over-tourism problem? (To put this in more evocative language, “Glu! Glu! is how you say “Glug! Glug! in Italian. You can Google this.)

Then I remembered I was an “Oh, the humanity!” kind of guy and decided to get serious. How can Venice “thin” its visitor population, since no one goes to Italy in the belief that he or she will get thin?

What follows is a list of five suggestions I meant to run by the Urban Land Institute but remembered at the last minute that many of those “urbanites” live in suburban gated communities with water “features” but no genuine canals. If they decided to tackle Venice’s problems, the first thing they’d do is solicit volunteers for a cohort study committee, and on-site focus group, for which flippers and SCUBA gear would be optional but recommended, considering how long ULI studies usually take. 

  1. Drain the damn canals, for God’s sake. Once done, put hoses throughout the city and begin refilling the place, slowly. Listen, it worked for my backyard swimming pool (when I had a swimming pool and a backyard).
  2. Have the city fund mandatory water-treading lessons for residents but charge visitors 38 euros ($40.66) per hour. If you go beyond treading lessons all the way to swimming lessons, raise the price accordingly.
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  1. Hire gondoliers with horrible singing voices who also look dumb wearing kerchiefs. Tourists will be turned off, especially those on their honeymoons.
  2. Replace the gondoliers with some of the young people who emcee Disneyland’s jungle-boat cruise. Their “crikey!” patter wears thin very quickly, even when they shoot blanks at the animatronic crocodiles that surface from time to time.
  3. In fact, why not stock the canals with animatronic crocodiles? And if that doesn’t work, use real ones. As science has taught us, human over-tourism is no match for reptilian overeating. Ciao!

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).