Jo Wiggijo Pixabay

The COVID-19 emergency is imposing an unprecedented respite from the crowd of tourists who, with the beginning of the summer season, usually storm the Italian cities of art. However, this forced depopulation can be a unique opportunity to rethink more sustainable tourism, especially for Venice. One of the most sought-after cities in the world, in recent years it is facing several problems related to the waves of visitors now present all year round, which especially in the summer season risk to submerge it and severely damage it.

The images reported by the media in recent weeks have shown the cities in a new light, like sets in which empty architecture is the only protagonist of silent and sleeping scenes.

All this beauty preserved by the uninhabited urban fabric that we are now rediscovering online needs to be protected. If on the one hand, we are hoping for the return of tourists to raise a sector in deep crisis, on the other hand, it is necessary to rethink the current system. To avoid any repetition of situations of overcrowding that have characterized Italian cities and in particular the Venetian landscape for years is now a priority.

According to the World Tourism Organization, tourist activity is sustainable only if it does not transform the social, natural and artistic environment in which it takes place and does not hinder or impede the development of economic activities of a different nature.

The increase in tourism "hit and run" has led to a generalized increase in rents, which has particularly affected residents, who have preferred to move to the mainland and go to the old town as commuter workers. All this may be at the basis of the impoverishment of the central economic fabric, increasingly dependent on a passing clientele and less on that of local citizens. This is maybe one of the reasons why the current health crisis has affected here more than in other cities the loss of jobs and the closure of restaurants and bars.

It is therefore clear that the answer to the problem of over-tourism cannot be exhausted exclusively in measures to control access to the island or in salacious sanctions for undisciplined tourists. It is necessary to find additional solutions that can enhance all those economic activities parallel to tourism, of which Venice has been very rich since its origin.

A world-famous example is the original production of Murano glass, ancient art and pride of local craftsmanship, in addition to Burano lace and fishing for juveniles and moléca, whose capture requires at least ten years of preparation according to traditional techniques.

For several centuries a crucial hub for trade in the Mediterranean, Venice has always taken the beauty and influence of countless cultures. Its history has encouraged the flourishing of places dedicated to the enhancement and promotion of all the arts. Today these institutions, including the Venice Film Festival, the Biennale and Ca' Foscari University, are unanimously recognized as among the most influential in the world in the cinematographic, artistic and cultural sector.

The financing and expansion of these activities would allow a real diversification of the island's productive range, to ensure its inhabitants an income not at the mercy of the flow of tourists, by its nature unstable and now more vulnerable than ever.

 Photo credits: Jo Wiggijo from Pixabay