Disappointing photos show what Venice looks like in real life, from extreme overcrowding and devastating floods to pollution from cruise ships

Shutterstock/Mariia Golovianko, Getty ImagesBetween 26 million and 30 million tourists visit Venice each year.
  • Venice, Italy is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
  • The city sees between 26 million and 30 million visitors per year.
  • But despite its beauty, the hordes of tourists, devastating floods, and cruise ship pollution may make you think twice about visiting Venice.

Venice goes by many nicknames, “The Floating City,” “The City of Bridges,” and “The City of Canals” among them.

Whatever you call it, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Italy, with between 26 million and 30 million people visiting per year.

But despite its beauty, the city suffers from massive overcrowding, devastating floods, and pollution from the massive cruise ships that pass through every day.

While many people may still consider a trip to Venice worthwhile, these disappointing photos show the reality of the less glamorous aspects of the city.

Venice, a city on Italy’s northeastern coast, is one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Nicknamed the “Floating City,” Venice is situated on 118 small islands.

Source: UNESCO, Venice Gondola

These islands are connected by more than 400 bridges, earning the city one of its nicknames: “The City of Bridges.”

Getty Images

Source: UNESCO

It’s known for its picturesque canals and the gondolas that can be seen gliding through them …


… as well as its central square, Piazza San Marco, with the impressive St. Mark’s Basilica …


… and the springtime Carnival of Venice.

Source: The Guardian, Telegraph, CNN

The two-week long event brings thousands of people to the city each year to don masks and costumes and party in the streets.

But in recent years, Venice has been dealing with some problems that have made it a less desirable destination for many. To start, the city has become inundated with tourists.

Tourism is a major part of the city’s economy, but Venice has had trouble handling the sheer number of visitors.

Venice receives about 26  million tourists a year, according to Italy’s councillor for tourism. Other estimates have put the number closer to 30 million.

Source: The Guardian, Telegraph, CNN

The city has a mere 54,500 inhabitants.

Source: The Guardian

But during peak summer months in particular, the streets are inundated with visitors.

You’ll be surrounded by other tourists.

Katie Warren/Business Insider

And the city gets even more crowded during Carnival.

You might barely be able to move through the crowds in the streets …

Photo by Awakening / Getty ImagesTourists take pictures in Saint Mark’s Square on February 4, 2018 in Venice, Italy, during Carnival.

… or the canals.

Getty Images

Venice has taken measures to try to limit the overflow of tourists.

Getty Images

During the weekend of May 1, 2018, the city attempted to control the flow of tourists by installing temporary turnstiles at each end of two major bridges.

Source: City Lab

If the crowds got too thick, only those with a Venezia Unica pass, mainly used by residents to pay for public transport, would be able to pass through the turnstiles.

Getty Images

Source: City Lab

The number of tourists never became quite high enough that weekend to necessitate restricting passage through the turnstiles — but some people speculated that was because the mere presence of the gates deterred some tourists.

Source: City Lab

An arguably overrated aspect of Venice is the gondola ride, which is seen as a quintessential romantic experience.


But even after you wait in line for a gondola behind all the other tourists who have the same idea, you could end up paying $US140 for a 40-minute ride …

Source: Europe for Visitors

… and you certainly won’t have the canals to yourselves.

There’s a good chance you’ll be surrounded by boats full of other tourists.

Venice residents have protested against the masses of tourists they perceive as taking over their city.

Source: AP Images

The number of permanent Venetian residents has been decreasing for decades, due to a combination of high prices resulting from the tourism boom, the logistics of a carless city, and erosion from the waters surrounding the city.

Source: The Local

In this photo, a protester holds a sign reading “Goodbye My Venice.”

Many of Venice’s tourists come to the city by way of massive cruise ships.

These ships pass through the historic center of the city five or six times a day.

Source: The Guardian

They bring with them pollution and damage to the lagoon on which Venice sits.

Source: The Guardian

The ships also block views of the city’s monuments and even the sun during certain parts of the day.

Source: Quartz

In 2014, the World Monument Fund put Venice on its watch list because “large-scale cruising is pushing the city to an environmental tipping point and undermining quality of life for its citizens.”

Getty Images

Source: The Guardian

One environmental scientist told The Guardian that “the passage of every single ship causes erosion of the mudflats and sediment loss” in the heart of historic Venice.

Source: The Guardian

In November 2017, it was announced that Venice would block these cruise ships from passing through the Grand Canal by Venice’s iconic square, Piazza San Marco.

Source: Associated Press

But critics say that even cruise ships passing nearby will damage the fragile ecosystem of the Venice lagoon.

Source: Quartz

In addition to the flood of tourists, Venice is also plagued by literal floods.

Source: Business Insider

Flooding season, or “acqua alta” — a period of particularly high tides in the Adriatic Sea — runs from autumn to spring in Venice.

Source: Business Insider

Venice frequently floods, but at the end of October 2018, Italy was hit by a series of intense storms that left three-quarters of Venice submerged. At least 11 people died in Italy in the country’s worst flooding in a decade.

Source: Business Insider

The water was waist deep in some places.

The city has had to install catwalks for people to walk on in some areas, including the central square, Piazza San Marco.

But sometimes these walkways are barely high enough to stay above the rising waters.

In this photo from October 2018, people are walking on a catwalk submerged in water.

Source: Reuters

The city has been trying to minimise flooding for years. In 2003, Italy started building a giant flood barrier meant to isolate the Venetian Lagoon, the enclosed bay where Venice is located.

Marco Secchi/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

But as the project is still not finished, it had no effect on the recent flooding.

Source: Business Insider

And while it shouldn’t be a surprise that a tourist hotspot such as Venice would be expensive, the city has made headlines recently for some truly outrageous prices in its restaurants.

Shutterstock/Dario Lo Presti

In January, four student visitors filed a complaint saying they were billed $US1,366 for four steaks, a plate of grilled fish, and bottled water in a restaurant near Piazza San Marco. The mayor called it a “shameful episode.”

Shutterstock/Botond Horvath

Source: CNN

A similar incident occurred in August, when a café customer said he was charged nearly $US50 for two coffees and a water. Part of the bill ended up being a surcharge for sitting in the “sunniest” corner of Piazza San Marco.


Source: Telegraph

In 2017, a British tourist claimed a Venice restaurant charged him and his parents $US600 for lunch, “[taking] advantage of the fact that we didn’t speak Italian.” The Independent noted that Italian restaurants often charge fresh fish by weight, which can lead to confusion.

Source: The Independent

Only 1% restaurants in the central San Marco area of Venice are owned and operated by locals, which has resulted in an overabundance of “tourist trap” restaurants, a spokesperson for a Venetian civil rights association told CNN.

Shutterstock/maradon 333

Source: CNN

And yet, despite its flaws, Venice is undeniably beautiful. So if you’re still inclined to visit, then by all means, buon viaggio!


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