Venice just segregated tourists from locals for the first time. Here’s what it’s like

Welcome to Venice on what authorities have predicted will be the busiest day of the year for tourists. Possibly one of its most controversial days, too – because they’re planning to segregate locals and tourists in order to divert footfall where possible.

The “urgent measures” have been decreed by mayor Luigi Brugnaro in the wake of a packed Easter weekend which drew local ire when vaporetti (waterbuses) were close to unusable and the main streets were unbearably full.

The measures work on the basis that the vast majority of visitors want to visit just two places in Venice: Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Checkpoints will be set up at the two main entrances to the city: Piazzale Roma (the bus terminal) and the Santa Lucia train station. Only locals and those carrying a Carta Venezia (for frequent visitors) will be allowed along the main thoroughfares; everyone else will be diverted along less direct routes.

So is this the day Venice officially turns into a theme park? The Independent’s travel editor, Julia Buckley, is in town – and as a regular visitor in possession of a Carta Venezia, she’s going to experience both sides of the divide.

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Other measures include rerouting boats full of daytrippers that usually stop at Riva degli Schiavoni in San Marco to Fondamente Nuove in Cannaregio, which is further away from the city centre.

Those driving may need a parking reservation or risk being redirected away from the centre, and local police will be keeping an eye on the main car park; once full, they may limit the number of cars they allow over the bridge from the mainland.

“Our goal is to inform those who want to come to the city that in the coming days there could be an extraordinary influx of people, making it difficult to visit,” said the mayor in a statement. 

“All tourists know that, if they respect the city, they are welcome. At the same time, however, we have the task of safeguarding Venice, and this is why we have adopted measures based on what is permitted by current regulation.” 

He added that this weekend was an opportunity to “experiment with a new tourism management system”. 

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