“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased…Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little,” Italian author Italo Calvino wrote in his award-winning Invisible Cities – a book that consists of brief prose poems that explore what is imaginable through the descriptions of cities by the 13th-century Venetian adventurer Marco Polo.
In the book, Polo is engaged in a conversation between the ageing Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, wherein the latter prods Polo to tell him of the one city that he has never mentioned directly – Venice.
Polo responds to Kublai Khan by saying, “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
For centuries the northern Italian city of Venice enchanted visitors with its canals and opulent palazzos that were built by the Doges, the democratically-elected lords who held sway over the Republic of Venice’s vast Mediterranean maritime empire from the Middle Ages until the city was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797.
Having captured the city, Bonaparte allegedly once referred to Venice’s iconic St Mark’s Square as “Europe’s drawing room” for its awe-inspiring architectural beauty. From that moment on, Venetians have become agonisingly used to the increasing hordes of tourists descending on the city every year.
After years threatening to regulate the number of visitors entering the city, which is constantly under the threat of sinking into the lagoon that it sits on, the Venetian government has decided that it will introduce an entry fee, or landing tax, of up to €10, depending on the season, for day-trippers arriving on cruise ships. Venice already taxes hotel occupants.
The tax, which will also be put into place alongside Venice’s hotel tax, will be easy to impose on cruise ship passenger. The move is not new to Italy as tourists pay a similar fee when they visit Italy’s Aeolian Islands, off the Sicilian coast.
Various tourist taxes are commonplace around Europe, however, single-day charges on visitors are rarer as they are hard to collect in industries other than cruises.