From February 1, Venice will make its tourism services available online in a bid to spread the concentration of its 20 million visitors more evenly throughout the year.
Tourists will be able to book city council-controlled services such as parking, ferry services and museum tickets by visiting Venice's new Web sites in the .com and .it domains.
Presenting the new portal at a Rome press conference last week, Venice Deputy Mayor Michele Vianello said the new sites would also offer links to privately run services such as hotels, restaurants and shops, acting as an online aggregator for the city's tourism services.
A "sustainability thermometer" will inform visitors of the degree of crowding they are likely to encounter, and a color-coded calendar will encourage them to book for off-season visits -- in exchange for price discounts, Vianello said.
Visitors to the site will be greeted by a female avatar, named Giulia, who will guide them around its services in a choice of five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.
Tickets booked online will have bar codes that can be scanned into the city's IT system, Vianello said.
"In this way the city is preparing to welcome tourists in the best possible manner, on the one hand informing them about the sustainability of the city during their visit, and on the other allowing them to save money, which is no bad thing in difficult times like these," Vianello said.
"The platform will be free, open and flexible. The only condition for those who link to us is that they must offer quality services. We have decided to solve a number of problems in a modern way," the deputy mayor said.