Irresistible to tourists, has Venice become unwelcoming to its inhabitants?

Irresistible to tourists, has Venice become unwelcoming to its inhabitants?


MILES O’BRIEN: There have been a number of
reports on how climate change is imperiling the city of Venice. But some projections indicate there’s an even
more urgent danger: depopulation. The city is losing about 1,000 residents every
year, as millions of tourists squeeze them out. Special correspondent Christopher Livesay
reports. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Venice, more than any
other place in Italy has withstood the test of time. Very little has changed since this lagoon
city was built in the Middle Ages, except perhaps the people themselves. You might even think the locals had been replaced
entirely by tourists like these. MAN: Obviously, most of the people here are
tourists. WOMAN: You’re right. It’s too much. WOMAN: I thought this was just a tourist area. I honestly had no idea people lived here. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Of course, some do. Giovanni-Claudio Di Giorgio is one of them. He and his two brothers are concert musicians. But they fear they’re becoming an endangered
species. GIOVANNI-CLAUDIO DI GIORGIO, Venice: When
I go outside my house, and I walk around in Venice, I feel alone, because I recognize
that the people I see don’t live here. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: In the Renaissance, it
was merchants who flocked to the Rialto Bridge. But, today, it’s tourists, a lot of them. In fact, there are so many, that a lot of
Venetian say they’re just too many, and they’re leaving as a result. In the 1950s, there were over 170,000 Venetian. But, today, there are just over 50,000. MAN: This is not as extreme this summer. It was way more, way worse. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: How do you do groceries
on a day like this? MAN: You don’t. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Susan Steer is an art
historian who says Venice has always been irresistible to visitors. SUSAN STEER, Art Historian: The way particularly
Northern European young men from the British Isles would mark their entree into adulthood
would be with the famous grand tour, and Venice was a place where you could enjoy some culture,
you could enjoy some of the finer things in life. And you could be initiated into some of the
carnal pleasures that Venice also had to offer. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: You mentioned something
about the type of tourist changing. What’s changed? SUSAN STEER: Fifty, 60 years ago, Venice was
an expensive place for many people to reach. Gradually, travel has opened up, so we have
budget airlines who are bringing planeloads of people into Venice on a very, very regular
basis. We have got budget bus services bringing lots
of people into Venice. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: And cruise ships. The sector alone employs 5,000 Venetians. Tourism at large brings in over two billion
dollars every year, by far the city’s biggest industry. Tasked with the daunting role of managing
it is the Venice tourism assessor, Paola Mar. So, six tourists jumped into the water from
this bridge? PAOLA MAR, Venice Tourism Assessor: Early
in the morning, at 6:00 in the morning, they jumped into the water. And they come out. (through translator): We have 25 million tourists
per year. It’s our main business. The problem is one of mass tourism. We’re up against people acting stupid, posting
videos on YouTube. We have zero tolerance for that. If you jump in the water, you’re fined 450
euros on the spot. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Starting this month,
tourists can also be fined for having bicycles, feeding pigeons, and even sitting down in
public squares. WOMAN: I’m sorry. It’s not allowed to sit here. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: A common scene in crowded
tourists sites, where locals rarely visit anymore. But down a few back alleys, you can still
find places where the Venetian way of life is unspoiled, like at this locals bar. The food on order, traditional dishes you
won’t find in most tourist restaurants. And the lingua franca isn’t Italian; it’s
Veneziano, a dialect few outside the lagoon can understand. So there’s differences from neighborhood
to neighborhood. Giovanni-Claudio Di Giorgio introduces me
to members of his club, Generazione ’90, or ’90s Generation, young Venetians struggling
to keep their beloved city afloat. SOFIA CUTRONE, Venice (through translator):
Venice doesn’t have much to offer us young people. So we’re trying to reverse this trend. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Would you like to stay
in Venice and raise a family? SOFIA CUTRONE: Yes, yes, I would like to. I would like for my kids to have the same
opportunity. But I realize that may not be possible. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Not possible, in part,
because of the high cost of housing. Modest-size homes can easily exceed a million
dollars, as apartments routinely get converted into vacation rentals, squeezing middle class
locals off the island. Thousands of people who work here now must
commute from the mainland by bus and vaporetto. But some refuse to leave, like these Venetians
who have taken to squatting. Either they squat in a house, or they have
to leave Venice? CHIARA BURATTI, Venice: Yes. Yes. For the people that choose, for the families
that choose to squat in houses, of course, it’s not an easy choice. It’s not — it’s like the last chance for
living here. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: For working-class Venetians,
she says mass tourism is killing the city. I posed that question to Paola Mar, the tourism
assessor. PAOLA MAR (through translator): Killing the
city? I wouldn’t say so. Like anything else, mass tourism has its pros
and cons. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: She says the city is
doing what it can to protect the housing market from runaway speculation, by ramping up regulations
on rental sites like Airbnb. If tourism continues unabated, the city may
consider restricting flows into Saint Mark’s Square, effectively turning the heart of this
once vibrant metropolis into an open-air museum. As for Giovanni-Claudio Di Giorgio, he doesn’t
want tourists to stop coming altogether. He knows the economy depends on them. But if locals continue to leave at an alarming
rate, he fears his generation will be the last that can truly call itself Venetian. GIOVANNI-CLAUDIO DI GIORGIO: Would I want
to have a family and live here? Yes, I would. Would it be feasible right now? No, I don’t think so. It will never be the same again, and we feel
that this last generation is the generation whose responsibility is to ensure that more
people have the same privilege as us. CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: For the “PBS NewsHour,”
I’m Christopher Livesay in Venice.

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