Venetians fear ‘museum relic’ status as population drops below 50,000

Campaigners say Italian city’s remaining residents feel ‘suffocated’ by effects of tourism

The remaining inhabitants of Venice’s historic centre said they fear becoming like “relics in an open museum” now that the population is expected to drop below 50,000 for the first time.

Once the heart of a powerful maritime republic, Venice’s main island has lost more than 120,000 residents since the early 1950s, driven away by myriad issues but mainly a focus on mass tourism that has caused the population to be dwarfed by the thousands of visitors who crowd its squares, bridges and narrow walkways each day., an activist group that for years has campaigned to preserve Venice’s heritage, has kept track of the population decline and said the figure, now at 50,011, would fall below 50,000 by Friday.

“We don’t have a precise number but, according to our calculations, and using data from the civil registry, it will go below 50,000,” said Matteo Secchi, who leads “We have been warning about this for years … we don’t want to give up, but no administration has managed to reverse the trend.”

Secchi said that those who remain feel “suffocated” by an “economic machine” that has focused on tourism. He said it had left residents grappling with a high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing, and led to businesses that sell essential items being replaced by souvenir shops.

“Tourism is a double-edged sword because you take money but at the same time you expel all the activities and space for [the residents],” said Secchi, who described Venice as “a cash machine”. “There are those who are not from here but own a home, rent it out and then spend the money elsewhere.”

Venice authorities this year announced a plan to attract remote workers to the city, but it appears to have made little impact. “This kind of thing is OK, but we need an epochal change and for the council to bring in significant measures, such as offering financial incentives to property owners who, say, only rent to Venetians,” said Secchi. “The danger is that we are becoming extinct, soon we will be like relics in an open museum.”

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

Venice council dismissed the population concerns, arguing that the number is boosted by foreign students and daily commuters from nearby Mestre, and that the civil registry does not include those who may dwell in the city for a significant part of the year but who are not registered as a resident.

An electronic ticker displayed in the window of the Morelli chemist has recorded the population on Venice’s main island since 2008. “Today it’s at 50,011, down from 50,022 last week, and for sure it will go under the 50,000 threshold in the next few days,” said the chemist’s owner, Andrea Morelli. “The drop is very demoralising. I remember Venice as a child, when the local population presided. You would go for a stroll in St Mark’s Square and see people you knew. Not any more.”


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Venice pushes ahead with €10 entry fee plan as tourists flock back
Authorities hope charge for day-trippers will help control numbers after visitors hit pre-pandemic levels

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

19, Apr, 2022 @1:53 PM

Article image
Venice mayor hunts for ‘idiots’ filmed surfing along Grand Canal
Luigi Brugnaro offers dinner to anyone who can locate duo who ‘make a mockery of this city’

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

17, Aug, 2022 @1:19 PM

Article image
Cruise passengers shuttled into Venice by motor boat to dodge big ships ban
Move by Norwegian Cruise authorised by city’s port authority despite plans to curb daytrippers

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

25, Jul, 2022 @3:29 PM

Article image
‘Life has sprinkled magic on me’: Venice entices remote workers to reverse exodus of youth
Italian city wants new blood to restore its dynamism and skills – and those who answered the call are inspired by its beauty

Angela Giuffrida in Venice

12, Feb, 2023 @12:52 PM

Article image
Venetians renew calls for cruise ship ban after crash
Crash that left four injured prompts infighting among governing coalition partners

Angela Giuffrida

03, Jun, 2019 @2:18 PM

Article image
Venetians rage at flood-defence delay: 'They don’t think of us'
City’s €6bn Mose barriers to protect against high tides unfinished after 15 years

Angela Giuffrida in Venice

14, Nov, 2019 @7:49 PM

Article image
Venice Biennale: women outnumber male artists in main halls for first time
Black women occupy prominent pavilions with some venues showing work from non-binary, disabled and trans artists

Charlotte Higgins in Venice

22, Apr, 2022 @6:44 PM

Article image
Italy’s large elderly population bearing brunt of coronavirus
Many have underlying conditions, making fight against Covid-19 more complex

Lorenzo Tondo and Angela Giuffrida

03, Mar, 2020 @5:38 PM

Article image
Italian village offers €2,000 gifts to boost dwindling population
Bormida, population 394, also offering homes to rent for as little €50 a month in effort to persuade people to move there

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

07, May, 2017 @1:12 PM

Article image
Italy: more than 50,000 evacuated in Brindisi after WW2 bomb found
British bomb believed to have been dropped on southern Italian city in 1941

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo

15, Dec, 2019 @2:51 PM