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Tourists back in Venice for Doge's Palace reopening while the city considers new tourism model

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Gondoliers go with customers for a gondola ride on a canal in Venice on June 12, 2020
Gondoliers go with customers for a gondola ride on a canal in Venice on June 12, 2020   -   Copyright  ANDREA PATTARO / AFP
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Tourists were back in large numbers in Venice on Saturday, as the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) finally reopened.

Hundreds queued up for more than 300 meters at Saint Mark's Square, after around a thousand tickets sold for the reopening day only.

"It's a very strong emotion, like the first day of school," president of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation Maria Cristina Gribaudi said. "There were people queuing at 8.00 this morning".

Inside the 14th-century palace, face-masks are compulsory, with several signs urging people to "keep their distance". All the rooms are surveilled to avoid the formation of large gatherings.

MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Tourists walk across St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear L) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale, C) on November 4, 2019MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Souvenir shops have reopened too in town, as well as almost all the other shops and restaurants - including the historic Café Florian.

Around the Rialto Canal, visitors flooded the alleys of the City of the Doges, and the famous gondolas and vaporettos sailed off again.

"We hope to have slow tourism in the future. This does not mean less tourism, but better, better organisation," the director of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation Gabriella Belli said, as the COVID-19 lockdown prompted debates for a more sustainable tourism model.

Italy lifted much of its lockdown restrictions in May, before it fully reopened its borders to EU tourists on June 3.

Although the virus appears to have now loosened its grip on the country, Italy has been one of the world's worst-affected nations, accounting for over 34,000 deaths and more than 236,000 cases.