Is Venice really sinking? This question was asked a lot, following the almost unprecedented high tide that paralysed the city at the end of last year, damaging many historic buildings and works of art and causing scenes that featured in equal measure panic, puzzlement, and confusion. While it is a well-known fact that the sea level is rising and that water will eat away at most of the world’s coasts in the not-so-distant future, it is somehow unimaginable for this to happen to Venice, partly because this city is one of the world’s biggest treasures and partly because the ebb and flow of the tide is a feature of the city’s identity and it is almost impossible to imagine it rising and not going down, eventually.
What climate change will do to Venice
The Venetian Lagoon has been identified as one of the first parts of the Italian coast that will be submerged if the sea level continues to rise. We are not looking at one massive event, but rather at a gradual phenomenon that could take centuries – according to the more optimistic forecast – or decades. The events that took place last year are among the most dramatic since 1875 – when the tide levels started being recorded. More precisely, the events of last year come second only to the high-tide of November 1966, which reached over two metres above average sea-level. On the whole, what causes concern is not the level of recent high-tides, but their frequency and duration, which as increased dramatically over the past decade.
Getting to know the “real” Venice
Water is not the only perceived “threat” currently Faced by the city of Venice. Another very real “tide” that is already submerging the city comes in the form of mass tourism. Venice counts approximately 50.000 residents, and yet it welcomes almost twice that number of visitors every day. Ironically, while tourism has undoubtedly propped up the local economy for over a century, it is also draining the city’s resources faster than it can replenish them.
What is responsible tourism?
When we think of responsible tourism, images of exotic, natural landscapes come to us. We connect this expression to the idea of visiting uncontaminated destinations without expecting to keep our metropolitan lifestyle. There is, however, such a thing as responsible tourism in a city like Venice too. It is about visiting the city after getting to know and heeding the advice of the countless local associations that are trying to stop the city from turning into one big theme park and pointing at the options for accommodation, food, and shopping that are beneficial to the local community.
What can you do for Venice? Go somewhere else!
This does not mean that you should not visit Venice, but rather that you should devote your attention to the surrounding region as well. For instance, you could plan your next corporate meeting or incentive travel in a nearby destination – either in the inland or on one of the islands off the coast of Veneto – and plan one responsible excursion to Venice, while hosting your main events, such as conferences and team building sessions – elsewhere. This will not only help you save on booking fees and transportation, but it will also allow you to discover some of the most beautiful cities in Italy, that often get overlooked by international visitors, simply because the fame and allure of Venice outshine them.