“We searched for four years,” he says. “We wanted to stay downtown. My family lives there, we know everyone.” But they have not been able to find a home, even in the months when there were not a single tourist in Venice. “We were always told that we could stay in an apartment for a few months, until everything went back to normal.”
Last summer, the family decided to move to Murano, an island further down the lagoon. “We have now adapted. It is not far, but we have to take the boat for everything. Because one of my children is in a wheelchair, that is not convenient.”
Ready for the reboot
Da Ponte found the situation extra painful, because there has been endless talk about more sustainable tourism during the lockdown. “We had discussion evenings with the municipality and residents. So many plans have been launched.” Last May, the city council presented a document containing “ten commandments”: plans to prepare the city for the restart. One of these was curtailing services like Airbnb.
“That document was a question to the government,” explains Tourism Councilor Simone Venturini. “Cities like Amsterdam and Paris have managed to restrict Airbnb. But in Italy we can’t do anything without a national law.”
However, the alderman has another plan: a system of reservations so that the number of tourists can be limited. From 2022 he wants to place gates at the access roads to the city. “The more we balance residents’ rights and the tourism industry, the more people want to live in places that are now overrun.”
Giovanni Da Ponte sees it differently. “Those fences make tourists feel like they’re in a museum, not a real city. That’s the opposite of what we want to achieve.”
The solution to the housing problem is not simple, he realizes. “If he was simple, we would have found him already.” Still, he hopes that the impasse will soon end, with the city council pointing to Rome and vice versa.
“You don’t ask if they give you money, you don’t want to go to the moon. Just a house in the city where you were born. That is no longer a basic right here, but a privilege.”