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.
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.
Matteo Bisol runs the vineyard restaurant Venissa on the tiny lagoon island of Mazzorbo, and has been campaigning for a more eco-responsible, sustainable model of tourism in Venice for some time.
“If there were not, then we should all be worried as the lagoon here is a fragile ecosystem. People need to realise that if we control and cut down boat traffic in Venice and its lagoon then we could all discover a unique biosphere.”
“We Venetians have the feeling that nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city,” said Beggiato.
“If you ask me today – sunny blue skies, clear canals – then, yes, we would all like Venice to stay like this for a while. But we need, and look forward to, the return of tourists, though maybe not the 20 million a year that we have had to cope with.”