- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH

ROME — Visitors to Venice and Florence will be taxed up to 5 euros ($6.34) each a day beginning next year.

The cities, which attract 35 million tourists every year, have been given permission by the government to levy the tax to make up for sweeping cuts to their central funding.

Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari said the new tax was the only way his city could now balance its books. The government’s new budget had cut most of the city’s money for routine maintenance, let alone for the construction of flood barriers to keep Venice above water.

“The tax is inevitable,” he said, adding he needed $127 million a year just for restoration work.

“The town has to pay for huge extra costs for services such as security that tourists demand. Every day, the city is used by a population almost twice as large as the number of its residents. There are 50,000 tourists for 62,000 residents. We cannot continue to make only our citizens pay for the costs.”

The Italian government is in the process of passing its budget for 2007, which includes several emergency measures to reduce the country’s perilous public debt. The move to allow cities to charge tourists has been included to sweeten the medicine for councils facing shortfalls.

Rome and Naples are also considering a tax, while Turin said its visitors would be charged only 1 or 2 euros (up to $2.55) a day.

Florence Mayor Leonardo Domenici said he thought a charge of 1 euro a day for every “star” held by a visitor’s hotel was “reasonable.”

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