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By Claudia Quesito

Tourism in Italy is crucial for the economy, and many Italian cities are much-loved destinations for tourists. In a few of them, however, tourism — or more specifically, il turismo di massa — has brought a series of issues. For foreigner visitors as well as Italian ones, the so-called “triangle” — Venezia-Firenze-Roma — is, indeed, THE destination. And for good reason: These three cities are each unique in their own way. Venezia is built on water; there are no cars! Taxis, buses, police vehicles are all … boats!

They even have their exclusive name, vaporetti, and the streets connecting the canals, only available to pedestrians, are called calli (singular, calle). Not to mention the gondola. You cannot ride a gondola anywhere else in the world … well, except in Las Vegas, Nevada, of course. Firenze is the cradle of the Italian Renaissance; few places in the world are so packed with art and beauty. Plus, it is surrounded by the sweetest hills in the world. And then, Roma. No presentation needed.

Tourism in Italy

Millions of tourists visiting these cities every year have some practical consequences for residents. Prices are generally high, if not sky high. Housing, especially renting, can be problematic: Many owners prefer to offer short-term rentals, as they are less risky and more lucrative. Therefore, students and young people, as well as longtime residents, are often displaced from historical neighborhoods, which sometimes owe their appeal to those very people!

Some issues are more specific, like the colossal cruise ships regularly offloading thousands of people in piazza San Marco, Venice, with serious repercussions on the sea life and even the city’s solidity. The cities themselves have changed: Some call them “fake,” and the experience of visiting them, surrounded by thousands of other tourists, can be frustrating, even disappointing.

Some remedies have been tried: fines for people bathing in Venetian Canal Grande (!) or in one of the gorgeous Roman fountains (!!), limits to the number of people allowed in certain spaces or in the city itself, a tassa di accesso (entry ticket) for people visiting Venezia. It is hard to set the boundaries among the many interests at play. Il turismo di massa will probably continue to be the croce e delizia (both a blessing and a curse) of these cities and many other places. The environment calls for a prompt action though, and art and beauty too, so best to get ready with a plan!

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