Venice returns to normal after COVID as satellite images show canals filled with boats

Watch: Satellite images show Venice's canals thronged with boats as tourism returns

Tourism in Venice has returned to pre-pandemic levels as the latest satellite images show its waters filled with boats.

The Italian city is renowned for its constant battle over how many visitors it should allow to walk its famous streets.

During the coronavirus pandemic, those streets and its canals were empty as lockdown kept tourists away.

But recent images from above the city show that traffic in its waters is as busy as ever.

(Iban Ameztoy/Twitter)
Satellite images show how boats and tourists have returned to Venice. (Iban Ameztoy/Twitter)

On Sunday, a time-lapse video posted on Twitter by Iban Ameztoy, from the European Commission's EU Science Hub, showed hundreds of boats powering around Venice's canals.

The video was recorded between July and August and showed, according to Ameztoy, "busy channels in Venice which is back to pre-COVID tourism levels".

A general view shows almost empty St. Mark's Square in the afternoon, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Venice, Italy June 18, 2020.  REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
An almost empty St Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020. (Reuters)

In the clip, the boats are seen from above as little white splashes, constantly moving around the waters of Venice.

The city was left virtually empty at various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as early as February 2020 and then again in March 2021.

Venice has always had a love-hate relationship with tourists, welcoming the income they bring while trying to make the city manageable for its residents.

An empty Grand Canal is seen in Venice as Italy's lockdown measures continue to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Venice, Italy, April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
An empty Grand Canal in Venice in April 2020 near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters)

Last month, in an unprecedented move, officials said they will make day visitors pay to visit the city.

The controversial plans will come into force from 16 January 2023 and will mean those not staying in Venice overnight will have to reserve a visiting slot and pay a fee ranging from €3 (£2.53) to €10 (£8.44), depending on the crowds.

Read more: Venice asks tourists to drink from water fountains instead of plastic bottles

General view of empty Grand Canal on Easter Sunday as Italy remains on lockdown due to a spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Venice, Italy, April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
Venice was left almost empty at various stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Reuters)

Visitors could be fined as much as €300 (£253) if stopped in the city and are unable to provide proof they have booked and paid for a slot with a QR code.

It is estimated that four out of five of Venice's tourists only come for a day trip. About 19 million people visited Venice just for the day in 2019.

Venice is thought to be the first city in the world to put in place a system to charge day-trippers for entry.

(Iban Ameztoy/Twitter)
Boats in Venice seen from satellite images from above as little white splashes. (Iban Ameztoy/Twitter)

The move comes as locals said they fear becoming like "relics in an open museum" as the population of the city fell below 50,000 for the first time.

More than 120,000 residents have left Venice since the early 1950s.

The activist group said that last week the population fell to 49,989.

Matteo Secchi, head of the group, told The Guardian: "The danger is that we are becoming extinct, soon we will be like relics in an open museum.”