Overcrowded Venice may ban day-trippers

There’s no question that Venice is a city overrun with tourists. 20 million people visit the sinking city each year, yet only 60,000 Italians call Venice home. It’s no wonder then that the city starts to feel more like an open-air museum, a well-preserved relic of the past, rather than a living, and lived-in, city.

The residents of Venice put up with a lot (though or course, many of them profit greatly from the massive tourism industry too), and many are fed up with the overwhelming crush of tourists that descend on the town each year. And they aren’t above fighting back. Last year, the city created a (short-lived) locals-only vaporetto line from the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. Technically, anyone with a 3-year Carta Venezia pass could ride, but at 40 Euros each, most visitors wouldn’t buy one.

The latest tactic in the battle of locals vs. tourists is to ban day-trippers. Only about 30% of Venice’s annual visitors stay there overnight. The rest stay outside the city, stop by on their way to or from other destinations, or come for the day by cruise ship. The proposal would limit visitors to the city to those people who have a pre-booked hotel reservation.

Enrico Mingardi, the head of public transportation in Venice, is the mastermind of the proposal. He says that Venetians can “no longer tolerate the discomforts” caused by the influx of thousands of tourists each day. He didn’t say exactly how the system would work, what rules would apply to cruise ship visitors, and if those without proof of hotel reservations would be locked out of the city.

Proposals that would limit the number of Venice’s tourists have been brought up before, but always defeated. If the policy does take effect, I have a feeling Venice will feel even more like a historical theme park. What’s next – turnstiles and a ticket window?

Amster-done? Try Delft

Amsterdam has long been a favorite for travelers, whether they are dope smoking hedonists or art loving dilettantes (or both) but what many visitors don’t realize is that the city offers a wealth of fun day trips. Here’s one of my favorites.

Delft is less than an hour by train from Amsterdam and is filled with history, beauty, and good food. What more could you ask for? Oh, and there are coffee shops, so even the potheads don’t have an excuse to skip it.

The city became prominent in the Middle Ages and developed into one of Holland’s leading centers for trade and commerce. Rich citizens built elegant houses like the one pictured here, and two giant churches, the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Old Church and New Church) tower over the skyline.

Like a lot of Dutch towns, Delft is crisscrossed by canals lined with tidy houses, shops, and cafes. A lazy stroll along the water is a good way to spend the day, but if you’re more into sightseeing, here are four spots well worth a visit.

Oude Kerk. Built in 1246 and added to over the years, this church’s impressive 75 meter high tower rises over the main canal and makes for a great photo. Inside there’s a soaring arched roof, the grave of the famous painter Vermeer, an intricately carved 16th century pulpit, and a giant 19th century organ. Neither this nor the New Church have any original stained glass, because in 1654 the city’s supply of gunpowder exploded, blowing out every window in the city and killing more than a hundred people. The city fathers would have liked to have interrogated Cornelis Soetens, who was in charge of keeping the powder safe and accidentally set it off during an inspection, but they couldn’t find any part of him big enough to question.


Nieuwe Kerk. The so-called “New Church” was started in 1396, showing once again that in Europe the term “new” is highly relative. One day an eccentric beggar named Brother Simon fell on his knees in the Market Square and claimed he had a vision of the heavens opening up. This might have been shrugged off as the ravings of a lunatic, but a respectable merchant saw it too and raised the funds to start construction. This work went on for more than a century but the end product is worth it. The church and its tower grace one end of the market and is the tallest building in the city. The most impressive sight within the church is the ornate marble and bronze mausoleum for the House of Orange, the Dutch royal family.

The Markt. A farmer’s market has been held in the market square between the town hall and the Nieuwe Kerk every Thursday for more than four hundred years. This is a great place to buy Dutch cheese, as well as lots of other delicacies. If you’re traveling on a budget, lots of stands sell cheap food like chicken and felafel that you can eat on the go. There’s also handicrafts such as the famous Delft blue pottery. Adjoining streets behind the town hall have an antiques market the same day.

Prinsenhof. This medieval monastery served as a palace for King William the Silent until he was assassinated in 1584. The bullet holes are still visible. Needless to say, the royal family didn’t really want to live here after that. Now it’s a municipal museum housing the usual historic bric a brac, along with a pleasant garden. You didn’t think you could read a feature by Gadling’s resident museum junkie and get away without a museum did you?

The Dutch being an efficient people, they’ve set up an informative English website covering Delft’s sights, hotels, and restaurants.

Six Flags New England: A Day Out

Here are a few things I discovered about Six Flags New England in Springfield, Massachusetts. If you leave 13 towels and assorted other belongings piled together on two chairs in Hurricaine Harbor water park and forget that the water park closes at 7:00 PM, the park people collect all belongings and bring them to the Lost and Found near the park’s main gate. But, what ends up at Lost and Found is a bit different that what was left behind. Thirteen towels becomes four and a tan pair of child’s sandals possibly walked off with the missing towels. Somehow, an extra pair of sunglasses did end up with all the stuff that was recovered.

Despite the water park snafu, which I have to say has something to do with the thunder and lightening storm that sent us to take shelter under the thatched umbrellas in the water park in the first place, Six Flags is a great day activity for a multi-aged crowd. While the five-year-old went on the kiddie rides in the The Wiggles section, the older kids headed off to the roller coasters. Not just the older kids, but the kids at heart as well. I talked my best friend to go on the Superman: Ride of Steel roller coaster with me even though she swore up and down that under no circumstances would she ever get on it. Two hours after her declaration, there we were, our hands gripping the lap bar, heading towards the sky.

The Superman: Ride of Steel roller coaster is a massive steel thing that’s been named the “Number One Coaster in the World.” For the biggest thrill, sit on the left. That’s the side without the catwalk railing. I can vouch that it feels like being on the edge of the world without any barrier to falling off. I had the brief thought, “Ya, know, I don’t really like this all that much” as I took in the unobstructed view of the Connecticut River. That thought flew out as we flew down the first incline. At the end of the ride that lifted us slightly out of our seats on a couple dips, my friend opened her eyes and said, “That was fun. I’m glad I did it, but never again.”

The Batman: The Dark Night ride coaster that made upside down loops suited both of us more and I’d have gone on it again if we didn’t have to go retrieve our stuff, or what was left of it. [The photo is from The Coaster Critic who blogs about rollercoasters.)

* As a note, the park had nothing to do with the missing stuff. It was totally our fault since we left it for hours on end. Moral of the story: Lock up belongings, or at least remember the water park closes before the rest of the park does.