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Italy bans large cruise ships from Venice centre

Christian Fernsby |
Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing into the centre of Venice from August 1, Italy announced Tuesday after years of warnings they risk causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city.

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The decision, confirmed at a meeting of Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet, comes days before a meeting of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed to add Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.

"The decree adopted today represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system," Draghi said in a statement.

He added that there would be money to mitigate the impact on employment.

The move will see the biggest ships diverted to the city's industrial port of Marghera.

However, this is viewed as only a temporary solution, with ministers calling for ideas on a new permanent terminal.

Campaigners have for years been calling for cruise ships to be banned from sailing past the city's landmark St Mark's Square.

They say the giant floating hotels cause large waves that undermine the city's foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

The debate was reignited by the return last month of cruises after the coronavirus pandemic, when the throngs of tourists that normally fill the streets of Venice stayed away.

Venice was put on Unesco's heritage list in 1987 as an "extraordinary architectural masterpiece".

But the body warned last month of the need for a "more sustainable tourism management" and recommended adding Venice to its endangered heritage list.

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