After writing Those Were the Days about Argentina, I came by the place I had stayed in Macao ten years ago. As I had the link to their website, I clicked on it; for the sake of reminiscence. This was the announcement that I found:
So so much shame. Macao was such a nice place. That they say it has lost its colonial flair...
What about Venice? A friend had told me he would not have gone there had it not been for his wife who had not been there. I did not particularly understand it. To me, Venice is such a beautiful and romantic city. Then I came across some articles:
It is now "forbidden to stand without motivation"
!!!!! Really?? What does that even mean??
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro proposed a “sitting ban,” which would fine people up to $590 for “taking a seat in any public space.”
There has already been a sitting ban on the Rialto Bridge and major churches. “No lingering” on the bridges for too long.
No sitting? No lingering?? How long would you consider lingering?
Well... That's one of the pleasures of travel. You linger and take in the place. Then I realized I was thinking of the Venice of 18 years ago when I thought of Venice.
I suppose the city must be so overcrowded that they have resorted to such measures. There was an #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign in 2017 asking tourists to refrain from littering, sightseeing in a bathing suit or bare-chested. These are things I can understand. Even not riding a bike through the historic city center... But they issued a ban on fast food restaurants as well, to curb littering. Some measures seem extreme to me.
“According to The Independent, offenders can expect to pay 100 euros (~$118) for littering or engaging in “any kind of horseplay that could be considered annoying,” 200 euros (~$240) for wearing a bathing suit or going shirtless in public and 400 euros (~$475) for writing on or otherwise damaging any building, bench, tree or piece of pavement. Also on the list of restrictions: attaching a love lock to any bridge or monument (100 euros, ~$118), lying down or standing on a bench that’s meant for sitting (100 euros, ~$118) or climbing a tree (200 euros, ~$240).”
Authorities are proficient at concocting penalties! Once upon a time Venetians were bothered with the wheeled bags that tourists dragged on the cobblestones. A fine of 500 euros was proposed but that never happened.
I don't know how they apply these fines. It's one thing to put these into writing, another to exercise it. People would object, say they don't have money. These are not your citizens, they are tourists, how do you charge the money from them?
Venice introduced a tourist tax too. This is easy to collect, they charge it on the accommodation bill. They are thinking of introducing an entrance-fee as well. Even for day trippers. At least they make money. But residents are furious about the suggestion. For cruisers it makes sense, but charging the once residents who have been forced to leave the city when they wish to visit family and friends is outrageous.
Venice has 54,000 residents. The islands of historic Venice sees up to 30 million tourists a year. 30 million! Travelers outnumber Venice residents in about a hundred to one. It's not difficult to understand the locals' frustration. Flyers began popping up around the city saying: “Tourists go away! You are destroying this area!”
They even installed barriers, sort of “tourist checkpoints.” People counters to stop tourists. Perhaps it is logical, you wouldn't want to be in an overcrowded city either. Nothing is much fun with such a crowd.
Perhaps you become a tourist-repelling country, and it might even be good. Then you lose income. It's all a balance. And where the balance should stand is different for every single person.
Citylab writes: Giovanni Di Giorgio, a 23-year-old native-born Venetian and member of pressure group Generazione 90, says that this pressure is fundamentally re-shaping the city, and not for the better. “Venice as it was 20 years ago just doesn’t exist anymore,” he says. “Changes have happened so fast that it feels like waking up from a coma to suddenly find places you know are weird and ghostly, unfriendly. The population has dropped hard, theaters have closed, one of the largest bookstores has become a clothing store for visitors. Even though the streets are full to bursting with tourists, for us Venetians the place now seems empty. We feel like we are an endangered species.”
Day-to-day life has become more complicated, says Di Giorgio. “When I was a kid, Venice was full of historic, local shops, but now there are loads of stores selling mass-produced junk to tourists. Small silly things, like finding someone to sew buttons on to a shirt that’s lost them, are becoming impossible.”
These cruise-ship pictures in Venice are amazing.
It's sad to reminisce that the old Venetian republic was once known as “La Serenissima”, the most serene...
In Florence, they're hosing down the steps of cathedrals with water so that tourists cannot sit and picnic on them. Apparently there is a famous panini shop (I'm not advertising by giving the name, you can find it easily if you wish) which makes great sandwiches. One reason for the ban is that restaurants are not making enough money because tourists prefer to eat cheap; the second is that people eating in their hands are clogging passageways. So eating in certain places are fined. From 150 euros to 500!
Rome has similar bans too. No picnicking on the famous Spanish steps. Say arrivederci to eating gelato by the Trevi Fountain. No snacks either. No eating and drinking beside any of Rome's ancient fountains. Naturally, no swimming.
“Climbing, washing pets, and throwing objects into the water—is prohibited as well.”
“Why?” you would think. To me, it sounds ridiculous to even state such things. But of course there have been such incidents with tourists that the authorities have felt the need to come up with this stuff. So many people have jumped into fountains, three girls in bikinis went into Fontana dell'Acqua Paola to refresh, a guy jumped naked into Trevi in daylight, a British actress went in with her fur imitating Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita. Most of these have been caught and fined but five Dutch guys jumped in their clothes at night, shot a video, posted it on Youtube, boasting they didn't get caught. There have been vandalism as well. Or people brushing their teeth etc. etc. It's amazing the stuff unleashed people do.
Fountains could have been washing places once upon a time, but no longer. Now they are places to be preserved and enjoyed for their beauty. Is it so difficult to see that?
“No littering” is another such unnecessary ban if you ask me: These should be basic behavior, there is something called decorum. Sadly, it's not. Trash grows with the number of tourists. Our single-use plastics and packaged goods don't help either.
Rome banned tour buses in the city center, which makes sense if you ask me. There is also a “no-go zone” at night around the Colosseum.
By the way, the Colosseum was cleaned for the first time in 2,000 years. The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain were recently renovated. These are huge projects costing millions of euros. Of course there are sponsors too, but the money mostly comes from the residents' pockets. Is it so difficult to respect keeping a place clean?
And most of these measures are only for the summer season (or the tourist season!) until the end of October.
Apart from Venice, Florence, Rome... Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Split... All these are over-crowded cities too. There are many historical, artistic and archaeological sites in these cities. It is to our benefit to conserve them. These are all efforts to preserve a city’s character. It seems a necessary effort too given how affordable travel is becoming.
In short, before venturing into popular destinations like Venice, Florence, Rome, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, remember, you've been warned!
You see one photo all around in the media, but the reality is the garbage behind it. Really makes me want to just sit in my house and not leave. In fact, that's what I plan to do after I've been to every country. Luckily for me, the remaining ones are still the uncorrupted ones and it will take some time for them to be corrupted, so I'm good.
Yes, I'd definitely be an anti-travel advocate if I was to be anything related to travel. I'll be quite happy to just hang my hat and live in my quiet corner of the world after being to every country.