Venice’s future ‘in danger’ due to ugly new buildings and mass tourism

More efforts to protect the Italian city of Venice and secure the historic city need to be put in place urgently, according to the UN’s cultural agency – Unesco.

Because of the risk of “irreversible” damage from overwhelming tourism, Unesco believes Venice should be added to a list of world heritage sites in danger.

Unesco says the deterioration of the city is down to “human intervention” including “mass tourism” and “continuing development”.

It added: “Some of these longstanding issues have already led to the deterioration of the inherent characteristics of the property and its attributes.”

Venice is known as “La Serenissima” which translates to “very serene” a name many argue no longer fits one of Italy’s most picturesque cities.

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Officials remain concerned about the plans for the high-rise buildings on the mainland that could become an eyesore for traditional views across the lagoon.

Unesco thinks there has been a “lack of strategic vision” and it is a blow for authorities in the country who are accused of failing to protect the city.

The inclusion of Venice to the danger list was proposed by Unesco two years ago but scrapped because of emergency measures adopted by the Italian government.

The “in danger” label is intended to encourage better preservation of a site for the future. A site can be stripped of its World Heritage label, which Venice was awarded in 1987, if the steps taken are deemed unsatisfactory.

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One of these emergency measures was to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice, which can be very polluting. Cruise ships have been banned since August 2021, and the major, Luigi Brugnaro, also announced plans in March 2023 to limit Airbnb rentals to protect the city from overwhelming visitor numbers.

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Unesco experts have written several letters to the Italian government asking for updates and a timetable on protective measures for Venice.

On top of this, roughly 28 million tourists visit Venice every year, as reported by the BBC. This leads to more and more urban expansion projects, which in turn damages the city, according to Unesco.

The recommendation for further action will go to a meeting of Unesco’s world heritage committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September.

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