This year, Venice authorities are finally implementing a long-debated—and highly controversial—ticketing system that will bar certain tourists from entering Italy’s second most popular tourist destination after Rome (unless they pay an entry fee).

You read that right: from 2024, the city of Venice will essentially become an open-air museum you need to book in advance if you want to visit, in a drastic bid to tackle the damning overtourism that’s plagued it for decades, but don’t despair just yet:

Not all tourists will be subject to ticketing, and it is only going to be enforced on certain key dates. Sounds confusing? Allow us to explain:

Why Is Italy Introducing An Entry Permit For Tourists?

Gondola Man Punting Through The Grand Canal In Venice, Italy, Southern Europe

Italy’s floating city, where the traditional car-friendly lanes give way to navigable canals lined by centuries-old houses and monumental palaces, Venice is a bucket list item for every Europe-bound traveler, hosting around 30 million guests every year (more than entire countries do).

Although this serves as proof Venice’s appeal is as strong as ever, even though centuries have passed since tourism in the jewel of the Adriatic began, we can’t overlook the fact that this volume of tourism is a tad… much for a city this compact.

Island Of La Giudecca Seen From St Mark's Square Gondola Pier, Venice, Venetian Lagoon, Italy, Southern Europe

Venice’s historic center, a.k.a. the canal city, has around 50,000 inhabitants, excluding the ‘mainland’ extension, and considering it is where tourists are flocking into – for the gondola rides, gelato shops and the landmark Doge’s Palace – you can see how 30 million might feel overwhelming.

This year, authorities are making good on their pledge to curb the dangerous levels of tourism, that are leading to excessive littering of Venice and its UNESCO-listed canals, as well as the de-characterization of the millennia-old Adriatic port.

Aerial View Of The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, Southern Europe

Essentially, they’re introducing a ‘Venice Access Fee’, now being shortened to VAF that will not only require certain travelers to pay €5 (around $5.32) to access certain areas of the city, but also make a reservation in advance on a number of days:

The select dates the VAF will be enforced are the following:

What Are The VAF Dates That Have Been Announced So Far?

April 2024
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
May 2024
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 11
  • 12
  • 18
  • 19
  • 25
  • 26
June 2024
  • 8
  • 9
  • 15
  • 16
  • 22
  • 23
  • 29
  • 30
July 2024
  • 6
  • 7
  • 13
  • 14

As can be seen above, the dates comprise a majority of ‘peak travel days‘ in Venice during summer, when low-cost flight routes are in full swing, cruise arrivals are dotting the Venetian Lagoon, and day-trippers city-hopping around Italy head en masse to Venice.

The fee applies only to day visitors – in other words, people who are only visiting Venice as a day trip – and who arrive between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Though it is negligible, costing around five bucks, tourists who do not register and obtain an entry permit will not be permited to visit Venice.

Gondolas Traveling Through The Canals Of Venice, Italy

This applies only to the historic center, or the UNESCO-protected canals, not Venice’s ‘mainland’, sometimes considered the metropolitan extension of the Old City, or other islands in the Venetian Lagoon, such as Murano, Burano and Lido.

In order to enforce the regulation, the city is installing border-like security checks for verification of tickets, and ‘border’ guards will not hesitate to turn you away if you haven’t booked your entry slot.

There are, however, some exceptions:

What Are The Exceptions To This Rule?

female traveler sitting on the pier and enjoying beautiful view on venetian chanal with gondolas floating in Venice

Residents of Venice and the wider municipality, provided they show proof of their residency, minors under the age of 14, under the condition they present an ID card, and holders of a European Disability Card – but what about tourists, you may be wondering?

Well, there is a way you could bypass the strict border check and transit freely into and out of the historic zone without being bothered: you have to be staying overnight in Venice, and hold a hotel or accommodation provider-issued QR-code proving the length of your stay.

Crowded cafe in Venice, Italy

You will still be controlled, but you won’t need to make a reservation or pay a fee, but there is a catch.

Remember Venice has a mainland branch where there are no canals, and it’s where a majority of the municipality’s 261,000+ inhabitants live?

If your hotel is in in a municipality outside Venice on the mainland, as opposed to the canal-traversed ‘Old Venice’, you won’t be exempted from the fee, or from having to book your entry on those dates, as you’re staying outside the cordoned-off historical center.

Why Do Tourists Prefer To Stay In The Mainland?

Many tourists actually prefer staying in the mainland instead of Old Venice as it’s naturally a lot cheaper, with hotel overnights starting from only $103 in summer, while the cheapest room offer in the canal zone is a whopping $256 per night, going as high as $850 per adult.

There are no canals in the mainland – it is like any other city on Italy’s terra firme – but it is a short 10-minute train ride to Venezia Saint Lucia, the train station serving Old Venice, and tickets cost less than $2, making it an attractive budget alternative.

It is still a great pick if you’re keen on exploring Venice while saving up on accommodation, as it can be 50% cheaper than staying in the archipelago of canals.

However, if you’re visiting this summer, chances are you’ll have to book tickets to enter Old Venice.

If you stay outside the municipality’s limits for three nights and visit the historic part of Venice three times this May, the month with the longest streak of VAF days, you’ll technically have to pay $15.96 in entry fees and reserve your entry for each day you intend to cross Old Venice’s new ‘border’.

This is only a trial, as they put it, and if it proves successful, we can expect Venice to always be this way.

Thankfully, they haven’t yet established a ‘daily threshold’ of entry permits to be issued, though we wouldn’t put it past them if their goal is to quash overtourism eventually.

Once again, if you’re not sleeping in Old Venice (the archipelago where historic canal city is), you’re staying in the mainland instead (outside Venice city limits), or only visiting the area for a day trip, you will have to book and pay for entry, and don’t even consider bypassing checks:

There Are Hefty Fines For Non-Compliance

View Of The Basilica Di San Marco In Venice Against The Sunset, Venice, Italy

Access points are being installed in all the main transit zones between Mestre and Venice, not to mention spot checks and the penalty for non-compliance goes from 50 to a wallet-wiping 300 euros (or $319).

The VAF is the harshest anti-tourism measure we’ve seen anywhere in Italy so far, a country where tourists can be fined for taking selfies in the wrong place, or forbidden from renting Airbnbs in city centers, and it only goes to show Italian officials are only going to get tougher on tourism from now on.

If you’re visiting Venice this summer on one of the many VAF dates, you can book your entry to the city of Venice and pay your five-dollar fee here.

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