UNESCO watching as Venice grapples with over-tourism

Away from the once-maddening crowds of St. Mark’s Square, tiny Certosa island could be a template for building a sustainable future in Venice as it tries to relaunch its tourism industry without boomeranging back to pre-pandemic day-tripping hordes.

Private investment has converted the forgotten public island just a 15-minute waterbus ride from St. Mark’s Square into a multi-faceted urban park where Venetians and Venice conoscenti can mix, free from the tensions inherent to the lagoon city’s perennial plague of mass tourism.

“This is the B-side of the Venetian LP,” said Alberto Sonino, who heads the development project that includes a hotel, marina, restaurant and woodland. “Everyone knows the first song of the A-side of our long-play, almost nobody, not even the most expert or locals, know the lagoon as an interesting natural and cultural environment.’’

It may be now or never for Venice, whose fragile city and lagoon environment alike are protected as a UNESCO world heritage site. Citing overtourism, UNESCO took the rare step this week of recommending Venice be placed on its list of World Heritage in Danger sites. A decision is expected next month.