Venetians fear ‘museum relic’ status as population drops below 50,000 | Venice

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Remaining residents of Venice’s historic center said they feared becoming like “relics in an open-air museum” now that the population is set to fall below 50,000 for the first time.

Once the heart of a powerful maritime republic, the main island of Venice has lost more than 120,000 people since the early 1950s, driven out by a myriad of problems but mainly driven by mass tourism which has left the population has been eclipsed by the thousands of visitors who throng. its squares, bridges and narrow alleys every day.

Venessia.com, an activist group that has campaigned for years to preserve Venice’s heritage, has tracked the population decline and said the figure, now at 50,011, will fall below 50,000 by Friday.

“We don’t have a precise number but, according to our calculations, and using vital statistics data, it will drop below 50,000,” said Matteo Secchi, who runs Venessia.com. “We’ve been warning about this for years…we don’t want to give up, but no administration has been able to turn the tide.”

Secchi said those who remain feel “suffocated” by an “economic machine” that has focused on tourism. He said that has left residents struggling with a high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing and led to businesses that sell essentials being replaced by souvenir shops.

“Tourism is a double-edged sword because you take money but at the same time you push out all the activities and space for [the residents]said Secchi, who described Venice as “a slot machine”. “There are those who are not from here but who own a house, rent it out and then spend the money elsewhere.”

Authorities in Venice announced a plan this year to attract remote workers to the city, but it appears to have had little impact. “This sort of thing is OK, but we need a change of times and the council to take significant action, such as offering financial incentives to landlords who, for example, only rent to Venetians “Secchi said. “The danger is that we are disappearing, soon we will be like relics in an open-air museum.”

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The Venice council dismissed public concerns, arguing that the number is increased by foreign students and daily commuters from the nearby town of Mestre, and that the civil registry does not include those who may live in the town. for a significant part of the year but who are not registered as residents.

An electronic ticker displayed in the window of the Morelli pharmacy has been recording the population of the main island of Venice since 2008,” said pharmacy owner Andrea Morelli. “The fall is very demoralizing. I remember Venice as a child, when the local people ruled. You would go for a walk in Piazza San Marco and meet people you knew. Not anymore.”

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