Before coronavirus, Venice arguably withstood the world’s highest tourist pressure for an urban space: almost 30 million visitors per year vs. a local population 50,000 permanent residents. Environmental problems, space saturation, lack of affordable housing and a generalized touristification of public spaces are some of the key issues (directly or indirectly) related to overtourism.
As if this was not enough, the seasonal floods occurring in the city due to the high tide (always existed in Venice) are worsening. Reasons are to be found in the sea level rise, the inexorable sinking process of the city, and the presence in the lagoon of industrial canals dug in the past decades to make way for ever larger ships. The week of 11th – 17th November 2019 was one of the worst in Venice’s history: in 6 days, the sea water flooded the city 3 times, with tide peaks reaching almost unprecedented levels.
Venice is a millenary, vulnerable city, part of an extremely fragile ecosystem (its lagoon). It is therefore not surprising that, given the problems outlined above, the city is loosing population: in the last 6 decades, in fact, Venice lost more than 2/3 of its residents, going from more than 180 thousand inhabitants in the 1960’s to the current 50 thousand permanent residents.
Many feared that the city was about to succumb and definitively become, in spite of itself, an amusement park for tourists. But then came the coronavirus.