My wife, Barbara, and I were hooked on Italy from the moment we landed in Rome for the first time in 1994. We’ve been making our annual pilgrimage ever since. Italy is a feast for the eyes, a banquet for the soul; it’s no wonder an ever-increasing number of visitors are drawn to it each year. But beauty comes with a price, and Italy’s popularity takes a toll on the country’s infrastructure.
Take Venice, for example, where the huge influx of visitors means mountains of garbage, wear and tear on the cobbled streets and monuments, and the armada of boats that erode the foundations of canals and houses. We’d always wondered how the city copes with the effects of thirty million annual visitors.
Barbara found this extremely interesting video that explains how Venice maintains its infrastructure. It’s about twenty minutes long, but well-worth watching:
Seven years ago Venice instituted a tax for guests staying overnight in its hotels, but at least a third of visitors entering the city do not stay overnight. They’re day trippers that come in by train and cruise ship, and contribute very little to the city’s economy. Most Venetians agree that the massive cruise ships that offload thousands of passengers who return to the boat to eat and sleep cause huge problems.
The majority of the country has followed suit. We’ve seen similar taxes levied in even small towns. I’m afraid the tax will continue to increase, but we believe it’s a small price to pay to keep these economically stressed localities afloat.
|Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994.
In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.