The Italian Government is set to ban large cruise ships from entering Saint Mark’s lagoon in Venice, in order to reduce the damage to the city’s foundations.

The decision follows long-running protests by activists and pressure groups who claim that the corrosive smog and vibrations from cruise traffic are damaging the medieval city.

Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi was quoted by Times of Malta as saying: "The order by which in 2014 and 2015 no large ship weighing more than 96,000t will be able to enter Saint Mark’s lagoon and the Giudecca canal is back in force."

"While we believe that the passage of cruises through the Giudecca Canal is safe, we agree that a sustainable solution for Venice requires a new alternative route for ships."

The bigger ships will take an alternative entrance point through the Venetian lagoon on the south-west end, while they are allowed to dock in Venice’s maritime station.

An environmental study has been commissioned to assess the requirements of the proposed new route in Contorta-Sant’Angelo canal.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) statement was cited by Travel Weekly as saying: "While we believe that the passage of cruises through the Giudecca Canal is safe, we agree that a sustainable solution for Venice requires a new alternative route for ships and so we are pleased that the Italian Government is working very hard to find a sustainable solution."

Environmentalists and scientist have however already criticised the new plan, arguing that the dredging will have serious implications on the lagoon.

Meanwhile, ships that come under the 96,000t limit will not be restricted from sailing through the city. These will include ships operated by Saga, Silversea, Seabourn, SeaDream, Azamara, Oceania Cruises and Voyages to Antiquity.