Welcome to Venice. That’ll Be 5 Euros, Please.

Pulling into the Santa Lucia train station in Venice on Thursday morning, passengers were told via an overhead announcement that they might have to pay a five-euro fee to access the city’s historic center. Failure to pay could result in a fine from “50 to 300 euro,” the announcement said.

Outside the station, police officers in riot gear lingered, while a flock of assistants in colorful safety vests stopped arriving travelers to ensure that they had a QR code indicating that they had registered to visit on a city website. Those who hadn’t were directed to a booth where they could. After registering, overnight visitors were sent on their way without paying, but people planning to stay just for the day were charged (though there were other exemptions).

It was a new welcome to Venice, the first city in the world to charge day visitors a nominal entrance fee, a measure city officials hope will help counter overtourism.

“I only found out because my partner texted me this morning to say it was happening,” said Lorraine Colcher, a hospital administrator from Wirral, England, in line at the booth. “I thought he was joking.”

And she didn’t think that people should have to pay for the privilege of seeing a “beautiful city that everyone wants to visit,” she said.

Not far from the station, hundreds of protesters were making a lot of noise. For them, charging an entrance fee was a worrisome step in bringing Venice closer to what many fear the city will become if tides don’t turn: a theme park. Blowing whistles, they handed out fake tickets reading, “Welcome to Veniceland.” Some held signs saying, “Venice is not for sale” and “Stick It To The Ticket,” and chanted, “We want to take back our city.”

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