Overshadowed by cruise liners and undermined by building works, the city seems locked in a fatal embrace with the tourist dollar

I’m in Venice for the film festival, and the city is sunk in a lagoon of pensiveness. The opening gala dinner was cancelled out of respect for the 290 people who lost their lives in the earthquake that hit central Italy. Venice itself has a history of earthquakes: one in 1223 damaged the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore and permanently submerged the islands of Ammiana and Constanziaca.

The city’s relationship with tourism worsens. Deterred by terrorism elsewhere in the world, more visitors than ever are arriving. Mind-bogglingly gigantic cruise liners loom up by the Piazza San Marco like something from a sci-fi movie. Pretty much everyone deplores these monsters except the city’s new mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who cheerfully welcomes the tourist bucks they’re bringing in.

Related: Venice film festival: Hollywood looks to Italy for Oscars launchpad

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