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Italy blocks big cruise ships from sailing past Venice's St. Marks, studies alternate route

ROME - Italy has moved ahead with plans to block big cruise ships from sailing past Venice's historic centre, authorizing an environmental study for an alternate route that it hopes will still satisfy the city's key tourism industry.

Cruise ships currently can pass within 300 metres (1,000 feet) of Venice's iconic St. Mark's Square, granting a stunning view to those aboard but presenting a jarring sight against the backdrop of Venice's Byzantine architecture.

Residents, activists and environmentalists have long opposed cruise ship traffic in Venice. They balked at the decision Friday by a commission of government ministers and local officials authorizing a study into using the Contorta-Sant'Angelo canal.

The group "No Big Ships" called it the worst choice and insisted that big cruise ships must be kept out of the lagoon altogether.

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