Tourists are now required to pay the equivalent of $5.60 in order to enter the heart of Polignano a Mare, following a scheme that saw the installation of turnstiles at the entrance of the village.
It takes a village to raise a brainchild. And so it was that the denizens of Polignano a Mare in southern Italy got together to nurse one money-making notion into reality. The plan? Charge visitors $5.60 US for access to the heart of the village, located on the top of a cliff that borders the Mediterranean.
Then, the town of 18,000 went to work, installing turnstiles at every entrance to the municipality, as well as within its borders from streets to piazzas. The benefit, they thought, was that each visitor would get free popcorn, a doughnut, candy floss, and a beverage while checking out the sites that go as far back as 300 CE.
It's not getting much of a thumbs-up approval from tourists and even a few local business owners, though. Several of them have complained that the initiative that started at the beginning of November is nothing short of crass commercialism. Others add that public spaces should be accessible to everyone, not just those willing to shell out for a chance to visit those areas. One group called the Italian Environmental Fund is considering legal action against the admission scheme.
However, the mayor has argued that while Polignano a Mare does well in the tourism market during the summer months, everything drops to a standstill by October. Charging admission is the town's way of trying to generate some revenue during the downturn months.
"We want to make it less seasonally dependent.," said Mayor Domenico Vitto. "With this initiative, shops, hotels, and restaurants have remained open. Last weekend alone we had 30,000 visitors. Of course, residents can come and go as they like and don't have to buy the ticket."
Polignano a Mare is also following the lead of other Italian towns and cities, such as Venice, which earlier in 2018 brought in turnstiles as a form of crowd control, although patrons were not ticketed. Just north of Rome, the hamlet of Civita di Bagnoregio is charging each visitor nearly $6 U.S. And another small village, Alberobello, located near Polignano a Mare, is pondering the introduction of a similar business model.
Besides the architecture, Polignano a Mare does have some worldwide significance when it comes to culture. Singer Domenico Modugno, best known for his hit "Volare," which in August 1958 topped the Billboard charts, was born in the town. It's also famous for what might be dubbed an extreme sport for outdoor enthusiasts. Back in July, tourists and sports fans crammed the town and the shoreline to take in an event that was part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.