Return to the middle ages

The medieval right of portage returns from the hand of Venice.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 September 2023 Saturday 04:22
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Return to the middle ages

The medieval right of portage returns from the hand of Venice. Digging your pocket to enter a city. The walls are now invisible and there are no guards with spears at the gates demanding payment to cross the lintel. But it is the same as centuries ago: raising money and avoiding the presence of the most anorexic pockets.

It's not new. The tourist tax applicable to individuals who spend the night in a city or the one that cars have to pay in some places like London to be able to access its streets are also carbon copies of those taxes of yesteryear. Now they are justified in a different way and instead of the man they are charged by the city council or the regional government. That makes them less painful in the eyes of modern man. We have updated the name of the exactions imposed on us to move, but those whom we believe lived in the mists of time are not so far away.

The capital of Veneto has taken another step. The romantic city of canals was missing the number of hikers who entered and left its limits on the same day. Without an overnight stay there was no tourist tax to apply. And the collector, always voracious, has now found the formula so that they also go through the cashier. Lower value tourists, those who only visit Venice during the day to go to sleep elsewhere, must notify in advance and pay a five-euro visa. The formal objective of the experiment is to contain overcrowding. The reality, since no one will stop visiting it because they have to part with a five-euro bill, will be reduced for the moment to the increase in collection.

Mass tourism is on the cities' agenda. New York has de facto banned Airbnb's vacation rental business. In Barcelona the debate is also recurring, whether because of cruise ships or because of the plague of tourist apartments that empty neighborhoods of neighbors. It is being recognized that the classic hotel industry is not the urban problem. Criminalized so many times, at least it creates jobs, dignifies buildings that otherwise would end up being rubble piled up on the site on which they were built and coexists, if the urban plans are rational, with the usual neighborhood of a city.

The Venetian probatura refers to more general issues. Almost of a moral order, we would say; since it prohibits the passage of the person. It does not tax your mode of transport, nor the environmental costs derived from the use of water, electricity and consumption associated with overnight stays. What Venice says loud and clear is that there is not room for everyone who wants to go. And it seeks to establish numerus clausus. The Venetians, the very few that remain, first, and the possible tourists later. The rest, the trash that travels with pocket change, better stay at home. That is the underlying message.

The recurring argument about quality tourism or the establishment of dissuasive economic burdens for the traveler, issues always present in the debates on how to stop overcrowding, are nothing more than euphemisms to try to set limits on the number of individuals from the popular classes who must indulge in tourism.

Whoever has a full wallet is always well received. The same thing happens with environmental burdens on transportation, be it the automobile industry or commercial flights. The tendency to make mobility more expensive harms those who make numbers to get from one place to another or to be able to afford a getaway. But never to those who can change cars like someone who changes shirts or disdain low-cost flights because they take off at ungodly hours, land at secondary airports and are offered by companies that treat their clients like cattle.

And yet, despite knowing that we are faced with clearly classist arguments that will go further, we must recognize that reality places municipal institutions before the need to test public policies that prevent neighborhoods and cities from ending up being a thematic area of ​​Port Adventure. But without deceiving ourselves. Behind the curtains you can see the scaffolding of a world in which moving is once again a privilege of the elites after a period of democratization. In Venice without you, Charles Aznavour longed for his lover in a city that was not the same without her. Now no one would miss her. Neither to her nor to a few million hardworking travelers who are no longer welcome. There are simply too many. Or at least that is the truth that is making its way. Not only in Venice.