Cruise ships will no longer approach St Mark's Square in Venice. For the time being, they'll have to drop anchor at the city's industrial port, the Italian government announced on Thursday.
The decision was taken ‘to protect a cultural and historical heritage that belongs not only to Italy, but to the whole world,’ said the ministers for Culture, Tourism, Environment, and Infrastructure in a joint statement. They stressed that the industrial port was only a ‘temporary’ solution and ‘called for contributions’ to find ‘a definitive solution to the problem of large ship traffic in Venice’ by creating a new terminal outside of the historic city's lagoon.
Danger, noise, and visual pollution
The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, had appealed to Unesco for help in 2019 following incidents involving cruise ships. ‘The city of Venice is in danger for the good reason that we feel we are in danger!’ And he was heard. As well as being a danger to the city, they also cause disturbing noise and visual pollution and clash with the roofs and bell towers of La Serenissima.
The main argument, however, is the impact of these huge ships on the city's foundations. Mostly built of centuries-old wood, Venice rests on ancient foundations which are threatened by the waves and eddies that the ships create.
Threats on all sides
Venice is also famously sinking. Its foundations rest on very silty seafloor Rising water levels is something that Venice has been battling for many years, with flooding being a commonplace occurence. So common, in fact, that Venicians have called it the 'acqua volta'.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, ocean liners brought millions of visitors to Venice every year, further weakening the historic city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.