VENICE, Italy (AP) — Venetians, an ever-diminishing breed, protested in their lagoon city Saturday to draw attention to the problems of daily life in the famous Italian city.
Hundreds of Venetians, carrying suitcases to symbolize their steady exodus from their beloved city, traipsed over the bridges that crisscross canals, on a path that took them to City Hall. At the protest's conclusion, one of their leaders dressed as a doge, a figure who was a prestigious official in the glory days of the Venice Republic, and rode in a gondola.
Since 1951, Venice's population has steadily shrunk from 175,000 to some 55,000.
Several factors are blamed, including high prices driven by a boom in tourism, the logistics of supplying a carless city, and the erosion of canal-side apartment buildings by lapping waters.
Basements and ground floors in much of Venice are frequently flooded when the "acqua alta" (high water) phenomenon occurs, forcing residents and visitors alike to don high rubber boots and use raised walkways.
The Italian city's daytime population swells during the day, when many Venetians who now live on the mainland commute to the historic center for jobs, many of them in hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops serving tourists.
When huge cruise ships disembark their passengers for day trips in Venice, boosting the city's tourist numbers, Venetian natives seem even scarcer.