Hundreds of angry residents of Venice have mounted an unusual protest with shopping trolleys against the millions of tourists clogging up the narrow streets.
About 1,000 locals brandished their “granny trolleys”, which locals consider a symbol of living in Venice, since they are essential for wheeling home groceries from shops in the car-less city.
The protesters, who marched the length of the city at the weekend some waving the trolleys in the air, chanted in Venetian dialect “Ocio ae gambe che go el careo,” which means, “Watch your legs — I have my trolley.”
“It’s something we yell out all the time when we are trying to get past crowds of tourists in the packed alleys, so it felt like an apt slogan for our campaign,” said Marco Caberlotto, 25, a student who was born and bred in Venice, and who helped to organise the march.
As tourism soars in Venice, the city’s 55,000 locals are usually outnumbered by visitors who often spend a few hours in the city buying Chinese-made carnival masks.
Native Venetians, who numbered more than 150,000 last century, are also being pushed out by rising property prices, with landlords increasingly renting to tourists. About 1,000 inhabitants a year leave permanently to live on the mainland. Last month posters stating “Tourists go away! You are destroying this area!” were spotted in the Castello neighbourhood.
“We held the march to defend our city, which is collapsing,” said Mr Caberlotto, who is a member of Generazione 90, a group of local activists in their 20s and 30s.
The activists were joined by elderly Venetians and young children on the march, which ended at the street market by the Rialto bridge.
“With 30 million tourists expected this year, we are now living in a city we don’t feel a part of,” Mr Caberlotto added. As local stores are replaced by souvenir shops and crowds swell “even going for groceries is tricky,” he added.
“Some of the tourists we met on the march were surprised that there are still Venetians — they thought they were in Disneyland,” he said.
Generazione 90 wants tourists to show greater respect for the city but also wants to persuade locals to rent apartments to residents, not to tourists.
“What is happening in Venice is partly our fault,” said Matteo Secchi, a Venetian who joined the march. “We complain about tourists but we are the first to rent out our apartments to them. Airbnb has been the death knell for a dying city.”