Venice imposes short Grand Canal boat ban

Canal during the 65th Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2008 in Venice, Italy. Venetians use some 7,000 small craft to traverse the city's many waterways

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The city of Venice has imposed its first ever ban on motorboats, launches and barges on one of its main waterways.

Almost all the usual traffic was cleared from the Grand Canal for several hours.

The aim was to draw attention to the city's environmental problems, and help make the case for more ecologically-sound forms of water transport.

"This initiative is to raise awareness of the pollution and promote the use of electric or hybrid boats," said a council spokesman.

Down through its history Venice has sometimes been called "La Serenissima", meaning the "most serene" one.

The name conjures the perfect image of the place; beautiful old palaces standing in the calm of the city's canals.

But the day-to-day reality of life in Venice can be a little less than serene. Around 7,000 small craft are registered to use its waterways.

They are an essential part of the private and commercial lives of many Venetians, but the sound of buzzing, growling, or throbbing engines often fills the air.

The boats and barges pollute the water and give off fumes. At the same time, they create waves that continually slap at the crumbling walls of the ancient buildings that line the canals.

Gradual change

The authorities would like to see a gradual switching to electric-powered craft, or boats with hybrid engines.

According to the council spokesperson, work is being done on studies and initiatives that might make this transition easier.

A general view of the Canal Grande during the Venice Historical Regatta on September 7, 2008 in Venice, Italy Authorities would like to see quieter, more environmentally friendly boats like these on the canal

A parade of the kind of environmentally-friendly vessels that the city is trying to promote was to be held on the Grand Canal while it was cleared of other craft on Sunday.

And the idea of the brief ban on traffic on the waterway was welcomed by conservationists.

"It'll be very nice to have peace and quiet in the centre of Venice, even if it's just for a few hours," said Paolo Lamappo, a spokesman for Italia Nostra, which works to preserve the city's heritage.

He said that Sunday's initiative should be a "first step".

"We hope it'll make Venetians more aware of how lovely the city could be if we insist on boats only with electric power."

The conservationists say that a particular problem are the two-stroke marine engines that create fumes and smell.

"It comes into the houses along the canals and gets up our noses," said Mr Lamappo.

"The pollution is making the walls of our houses crumble."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    42. DemoDave will get need someone of similar resolve to sort this.
    They had Monti, but thanks to that wannabe Benito, Berlusconi and the private protection legislation he introduced that country once more is on the verge of disaster. Those trains running on time is a tad exaggerated and pales into insignificance compared to all the bad Mussolini did.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The monster cruise ships are horrible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Yes, certainly Venice would benefit from more electrically powered boats on the Grand Canal, though how they would do that with the vaporetti I'm not sure. But a much larger problem (literally) is that of the huge cruise liners who parade several times daily perilously close to the Doges Palace. They are monstrous, dwarfing the whole of Venice, and just shouldn't be there at all.

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 43.

    Another concern is the huge cruse ships which, in my opinion belong in at sea and not right in the heart of the city. It is the huge amount of tourists which is the problem, the huge ships are causing the damage and as more people go the worst it is going to get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Loved Venice. Loved the people and the architecture. Hated never getting a proper bill or receipt at the restaurants, many of whom obviously don't like paying taxes. As for the damage and polution, I can't ever see this being resolved as long as Venice is in Italy.
    It took Mussolini to get the trains to run on time, it will get need someone of similar resolve to sort this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Venice is beautiful and all speed boats should be stopped , some places need to be left as pristine as possible why on earth do we need speed boats anyway , find them a offshore island to roar around lets keep some history looking good .

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    As a frequent visitor to Venice I noticed it really started going down the drain when they put the 1st McDonalds there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    When I visited Venice I liked the fact that when you went on the vaperotti you travelled with the locals as well as the tourists it made Venice seem like a living city. Less polluting engines for all craft must improve life for Venice and everybody.
    What I really hated were the day tripping huge cruise ships destroying the ambience of Venice for little commercial return for the locals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Venice is like many cities, beautiful, enchanting, noisy, polluted and fascinating. It suffers more than most because of its location and small size.

    All of our cities would benefit from getting rid of the internal combustion engine. Imagine the central 4 square miles of our cities without that noise.

    We just need the courage and the will.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    having travelled by boat down to St. Mark's square and back, I can verify it is anything but serene. No rules of the road (or river), it was like a cross between the North Circular road and the Boulevard Peripherique, with the added risk of drowning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    This article I found interesting.I've always wanted to go to Venice but can't afford it but presumed people still travelled in Gondolas.I can see the problem with the other boats and it should be sorted out a.s.a.p.I'm surprised it hasn't been dealt with sooner.Unless Italy were waiting for a Euro handout to do it of course;) Preserving heritage is important up to a point of course. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I never would have imagined that Venice is plagued with the same curse as our beautiful and serine lakes in the northern part of southern Ontario. For many souls, enjoying this wilderness consists of speeding about in any kind of petrol powered craft one can find with all the attendant noise and pollution, as well as the danger to canoers and swimmers.

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    Comment number 32.

    Re 27 - Having most of my family live in the north east of Italy including Venice I can assure you there are more than a few locals who still live there.

    Venice is an intricate wonder of canals where the locals still live and work and Venice was never built with the future in mind so needs assistance to survive.It is not a Disneyland it is a home and one of heritage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Sure, Venice shares the plight of many of the world's special places, faded grandeur, too many visitors, over-commercialisation and tacky tourist traps.

    But to visit off season when the mists swirl through the narrow waterways and to explore the side streets, eating where the locals eat is still an exciting, romantic and worthwhile thing to do.

  • Comment number 30.

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