A massive cruise ships towers over Venice. Some 650 cruise ships now visit the Italian city annually, and critics say they threaten the city's fragile architecture.
Courtesty of the No Big Ships Committee
The fragile architectural treasures of Venice are endangered by rising sea levels, and a growing number of critics now say the city and its canals are at risk from massive cruise ships as big as floating skyscrapers.
On an average day, tens of thousands of passengers lean over the railings of cruise ships that can be 300 yards long and 15 stories high. The tourists peer down at the majestic Doge's Palace as they sail into St. Mark's basin and down the Giudecca canal.
Matteo Casini, a professor of history, says the big ships are alien creatures and an insult to the Renaissance jewel.
"It's like being in a science-fiction movie," he says. "These monsters obscure us; they are twice the Palazzo Ducale [Doge's Palace]; they are twice longer than Piazza San Marco; they have dimensions and numbers nothing to do with Venice."
Casini complains that when big ships pass by, windowpanes tremble and vibrations lead to cracks in the walls of old buildings. He says that the towering ships interfere with television and Wi-Fi signals.
Last month, exasperated Venetians organized a three-day protest under the slogan, "Take Back The Lagoon." The high point was a symbolic boat blockade in which hundreds of people in small vessels filled the canal waving banners with the words, "No Big Ships."
"Big ships are destroying Venice," a woman lamented over a loudspeaker. A man followed her, proclaiming, "Each big ship spewing black smoke pollutes the equivalent of 14,000 cars, moves 135,000 tons of water and destroys the foundations of Venetian buildings."
A cruise ship in Venice sails by St. Mark's Square and Doge's Palace.