Protests as Venice begins charging entry fee for day-trippers

April 25 has long been a historic day in Venice – the date is not just Italy’s Liberation day, but it’s also the feast day of the city’s patron saint, St. Mark.

But now Venice will notch up another dose of history for April 25 – as the day the city becomes the first in the world to charge day-trippers an entry fee.

There were protests as the day got underway with some locals waving banners and holding up their passports in anger at the city being put behind a barrier in the style of a theme park or museum. Photos show police clashing with some protesters.

The long-awaited contributo di accesso (it’s styled as an ‘access contribution’ rather than a ticket) started at 8.a.m. on Thursday. The city council is running a pilot project until mid July to see if it can make the system work.

Anybody visiting Venice as a tourist for the day – except those who live in the local Veneto region – must pay the 5 euro ($5.40) charge if they arrive between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m..

Tourists staying overnight don’t have to pay, as an overnight tax is already added to their accommodation bills. However they too will have to register their presence to request an exemption to the fee. Essentially, anyone entering the city on dates the fee is charged must carry either a ticket or an exemption. The only exceptions are residents of Venice and people who were born there.

A representative from the tourist board told CNN that 82,000 have registered for entry for the first day – a national holiday in Italy – but on average only one in 10 have paid the fee.

According to local Il Gazzettino newspaper, which broke down the figures, only 7,266 people had paid the fee. Everyone else had registered exemptions: over 30,000 hotel guests, 15,000 commuters, 11,000 students and nearly 10,000 Veneto residents.

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