Italy: Venice reopens its lagoon to cruises in a controversial atmosphere

After a 17-month interruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a first cruise ship set sail on Saturday June 5 in Venice. What arouse the controversy between supporters and opponents of the presence of these sea monsters in the famous Italian lagoon.

The two camps each demonstrated on their own to defend their positions: while the huge silhouette of the MSC Orchestra loomed off St. Mark’s Square, demonstrators waving banners “No to cruise ships” shouted their opposition aboard small motor boats.

Defenders of the environment and cultural heritage accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters long and several storeys high, of eroding the foundations of the buildings of the Serenissima, a UNESCO heritage site, and endanger the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

Supporters of cruise ships, for their part, highlight the many jobs their presence generates for Venice, whose economy depends mainly on tourism, which particularly affected it during the pandemic.

The debate is not confined to Venice and has always had an international dimension, due to the notoriety of this tourist destination, one of the most popular in the world.

On Tuesday, a plethora of international artists, from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson via Francis Ford Coppola and Tilda Swinton, sent an open letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the mayor of Venice to ask between others one “final stop” cruise ship traffic.

This letter entitled “A Decalogue for Venice”, also signed by the former French Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen, calls for better management of tourist flows, the protection of the lagoon ecosystem and the fight against real estate speculation, to protect “physical integrity but also cultural identity” of the City of the Doges.

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