Big cruise ships will be barred from Venice's Saint Mark's lagoon, to protect Italy's floating city from potential damage caused by growing traffic, the government said on Friday.
Venetians and environmentalists have long voiced concern about tourist vessels sailing close to the fragile city. Last November, Italy's government started limiting traffic on the lagoon and the Giudecca canal, which flows into the lagoon between the main island of Venice and the island of La Giudecca to the south.
"The order by which in 2014 and 2015 no large ship weighing more than 96,000 tonnes will be able to enter Saint Mark's lagoon and the Giudecca canal is back in force," transport minister Maurizio Lupi said, describing the large ships as "skyscrapers of the sea".
Politicians including Lupi, the prime minister's chief of staff Graziano Delrio, culture minister Dario Franceschini and environment minister Gianluca Galletti met in Rome on Friday and agreed to implement a decree limiting the traffic.
The ministers commissioned an environmental analysis of the nearby Contorta-Sant'Angelo canal, which has been chosen as a possible alternative route for larger vessels to reach Venice's maritime station.
"Our goal is to protect the environment without compromising the economy," Galletti said in a statement.
Lupi said Italy was agreeing the changes with cruise ship operators, and did not want to discourage those companies from doing business in Italy as they are an "important resource".
The sinking of the 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia liner off the Tuscan coast in 2012, which killed 32 people, has heightened concerns about enormous cruise ships in Italy's waters.