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Basilica San Marco
Basilica di San Marco in Venice
Venice, enchantingly beautiful and timelessly romantic. A city that seems to float on water is ironically also a city that struggles with that same water. The phenomenon of "acqua alta," or high water, has been part of its story for centuries. But what does it really mean for the city and its people? Also in this article, an update on the entrance fee for Venice starting next year.

Entrance fee for Venice starts in 2024

Venice gondola

What you need to know

  1. The entrance fee will be in effect for a total of about 30 days in 2024. After seeing how those days go, the council will reassess from there.
  2. The days in question are not expected to be consecutive. Instead, they will be spread out over school vacations, busy vacation weekends and other peak times.
  3. The lowest fee has been adjusted to €5. After that, the fees get higher as more tickets are requested, although the city has not announced the threshold for higher fees.
  4. A website with translation into multiple languages, including English, will be made available for visitors to pay for access in advance and get QR codes that validate compliance.
  5. Passengers arriving by train or bus should be able to purchase advance access when they purchase their tickets.
  6. Visitors who arrive without pre-booking must pay the full amount of €10.
  7. Visitors who do not pay and are caught will be fined from €50 to €300 on the spot.
  8. Overnight guests in hotels do not need a ticket. Also exempt: children under 15, people visiting relatives, travelers with disabilities.
  9. The islands of Burano, Murano, Torcello and the Lido are included in the entrance fee.

Venice is not just dealing with overtourism

Something for which the entrance fee that will take effect starting next year will hopefully put an end to. The city that has endured centuries might not perish due to the amounts of tourists it has to cope with each day, but there are multiple hazards on the horizon. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

San Marco and the flood of 2019

Imagine: you are walking across the majestic St. Mark's Square, when suddenly the water begins to rise and in no time envelops your feet. The famous Basilica of San Marco, with its beautiful mosaics and marble, is surprisingly located at the lowest point of the city. In fact, in 2019 the water here rose to a shocking height of 1.10 meters, the crypt was completely flooded. The basilica is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture, decorated with mosaics and marble. The walls and floor were damaged by the salt water, which also affected the metal elements. The basilica previously suffered from the 1966 flood, which reached a height of as much as 1.94 meters.

Teatro la Fenice in Venice

la fenice in Venice

And while lovers of opera would swear by the magic of the Teatro La Fenice, administrators must be constantly vigilant of rising waters, especially since the theater sits next to the majestic Grand Canal. The Teatro La Fenice is the largest and most famous opera house in Venice. It was built in 1792 and has since then survived several fires and restorations. In 2019, the theater had to close its doors to the public after water reached the foyer, bar and dressing rooms. Fortunately, the stage and auditorium remained dry thanks to a special system that holds back the water after the water reached as far as the boxes in 1966.

Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal

Even the Palazzo Grassi, now a museum of modern art, is not safe from the city's treacherous waters. This is an 18th-century palace on the Grand Canal and displays works from the collection of French businessman François Pinault. In 2019, it had to close temporarily, when the water penetrated the cellars and damaged some of the artworks stored there.

A bookstore in Venice has an innovative way to protect against the flood

libreria Acqua alto

However, amid these challenges, Venice is finding ways to innovate. Take the Libreria Acqua Alta, which proudly calls itself the "most beautiful bookstore in the world." In a genius twist of ingenuity, they store their books in bathtubs and boats - prepared for the whims of the acqua alta. But even that creativity could not stop the devastation of 2019, in which thousands of books were lost. In 1966, the water stood 1.87 meters high and also destroyed thousands of books. The owner, Luigi Frizzo, saw his life's work disappear. He tried to restore the bookstore with the help of volunteers and donors, but he fears Venice's future is uncertain because of climate change and, what he calls, the failing MOSE project.

The future of Venice and the MOSE project

Murano included in the entrance fee for Venice

Venice's future is now in a precarious balance and depends on many factors, including climate change, sea level rise and the effectiveness of the MOSE project. Studies predict possible scenarios where the city could sink as much as 53 centimeters by the end of this century, due to natural and human factors, such as groundwater pumping and erosion from the shipping traffic. The study estimates that the frequency of flooding would increase from 4 times a year now to 250 times a year in 2100.

What is the MOSE project in the lagoon of Venice

The MOSE project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico) in Venice is an engineering initiative aimed at protecting the city of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding due to high tides. Consisting of a series of retractable gates located at the three inlets through which tidal waters from the Adriatic Sea enter the lagoon, the system is designed to temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the sea during instances of acqua alta (high water), thereby preventing the historic city from being submerged.

Even in a more optimistic scenario, where sea levels would increase by 50 centimeters, Venice would still flood regularly and the MOSE system would no longer be sufficient to protect the city. And while engineers and scientists collaborate on technical solutions like the MOSE project, it is clear that the challenges facing Venice are not only technical, but also political and social.

Venice's beauty and heritage demand our attention and action. It is a city that embodies love, passion and resilience. And as it has for centuries, Venice continues to dance with the water - in an eternal waltz of challenge and survival.