According to Italian media, around 5000 demonstrators marched through the city carrying banners emblazoned with slogans such as “Keep big boats out of the lagoon”.

The protest was organised by a group called “No Big Ships” following an incident earlier this month in which the 13-deck MSC Opera suffered an engine failure, scraped along the dockside and crashed into a smaller tourist boat.

Four tourists, including two Australians, suffered minor injuries in the accident at San Basilio-Zattere in Venice’s Giudecca Canal. 

Environmentalists have long complained that cruise ships displace water, ruin the city’s fragile foundations, cause air pollution and damage the delicate lagoon environment by dredging up the muddy bottom.

Venice’s centre-right mayor wants cruise ships re-routed from the heart of the lagoon.

Italy’s Transport Minister, Danilo Toninelli, said that the recent accident “proves that cruise ships shouldn’t be allowed to pass down the Giudecca anymore”.