'Nature is taking back Venice': wildlife returns to tourist-free city
Look down into the waters of the Venice canals today and there is a surprising sight – not just a clear view of the sandy bed, but shoals of tiny fish, scuttling crabs and multicoloured plant-life.
“The water is blue and clear,” said Gloria Beggiato, who owns the celebrated Metropole Hotel a few steps from St Mark’s square and has a view over the Venice lagoon. “It is calm like a pond, because there are no more waves caused by motorised boats transporting day-tripper tourists. And of course, the giant cruise ships have disappeared.”
Under Venice’s strict rules of self-confinement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – all journeys but a trip to walk the dog or buy food are forbidden – the ancient city has been transformed almost overnight.
The clarity of the water has improved dramatically. Swans and cormorants have returned to dive for fish they can now see. At the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop, ducks have even made a nest. “Someone has put up a sign saying, ‘Don’t tread on the duck eggs,’’” Beggiato said. “All totally unimaginable a while ago.”
As the death toll from coronavirus in Italy outstrips that of China, the government of Giuseppe Conte has tried to keep citizens at home using a mix of social media and police controls.
But locals are still moving about cautiously to do their daily shopping – except now in a city without visitors. It is a remarkable transformation for a city that until recently saw protests against overtourism under the No Grande Navi (“No more cruise ships”) slogan.