Strange banners and stickers have been seen on bridges and facades in Venice's old town for several weeks.

It says nothing but a number: 49,999.

It is a silent and at the same time speaking protest against the demographic development of the lagoon city.

As the city administration has now announced, the number of inhabitants in the old town has fallen below the 50,000 mark for the first time in living memory: According to surveys by the town hall, exactly 49,997 people lived in the historic center last Wednesday.

20 years ago, 64,000 inhabitants were counted in the old town, in 2012 there were only 58,200.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

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Venice's depopulation seems unstoppable.

Within a generation, the number of residents has fallen by almost a third.

On the other hand, the number of tourists has almost quadrupled in the past 25 years.

Almost half of those still living in Venice today are more than 60 years old.

Only about 9,000 people are younger than 18. About three times as many people die as children are born.

"If this continues, we will become a ghost town like Pompeii," says Matteo Secchi from the organization

Secchi and his comrades-in-arms warn against a continued "Venexodus".

Young people in particular are fed up with paying exorbitant prices for groceries, having to put up with the renewed influx of tourists without having to use a car and having to spend enormous sums on a small apartment.

Venice's right-wing liberal mayor Luigi Brugnaro denies that Venice has a future as a museum city.

If you add the inhabitants of the islands, about 77,000 people lived in the lagoon city.

There would also be 25,000 students and 35,000 commuters.

It's about strengthening Venice's own strength.

With a reduction in bureaucracy and tax cuts as well as financial incentives, residents were to be lured back to Venice.

Families should be better supported, students at the local university should be persuaded to stay after they graduate.

Meanwhile, on the Saturday before Ferragosto, the unofficial peak of the summer travel season, more than 93,000 tourists were counted in Venice, including around 75,000 foreign guests.

Venice is thus confronted with the same level of mass tourism as before Corona.

From 2023 onwards, tourists who come from outside the Veneto region but do not want to spend the night in Venice should book a type of entrance ticket online in advance for between three and ten euros for the old town.

However, a daily tourist limit should not be set.