Venice Plans Theme Park on Toxic Waste Dump Site

Flickr/Dr. Savage

An amusement park built on the site of a toxic dump might not sound all that appealing right now, but an Italian company is hoping it will eventually become a draw card for tourists visiting Venice. The theme park is planned for an abandoned island in the city which was once home to an incinerator but may soon house roller coasters and a giant Ferris wheel, among other attractions.

The project has angered the city’s residents who are frustrated that the amusement park-like many things in Venice-caters to visitors but doesn’t do anything to enhance life for the locals. One conservationist said that the city is “always hostage to tourism.”The company behind the project, however, insists the amusement park will benefit the city. Not only will the toxic island be cleaned up ahead of construction, but the venture also will lead to the creation of at least 500 jobs. They say the project will create a better cultural experience for tourists, as a large portion of the amusement park will be dedicated to installations that depict the city’s history and the ecology of the Venetian lagoon system. The rides and attractions, they say, are necessary to pay for the cultural displays.

Venice Tests Flood Barriers

Engineers in Venice have successfully tested a new flood barrier that they hope will protect the city. The BBC reports that the first four flood barriers of a planned 78 were floated in the entrance of the city’s famous lagoon.

Venice suffers annual floods due to unusually high tides that threaten irreplaceable buildings and a destination essential to Italy’s tourism industry. It’s also sinking at a rate of one to two millimeters a year, Discovery Magazine reports.

The barrier isn’t complete and has already cost $7 billion. It will take another $800 million and two years more work before it can protect the city. While Italy is suffering badly from the global economic crisis, the government has promised to complete the project by 2016.

Venice To Toughen Canal Rules After Tourist Dies On Gondola Ride

Venice Canal
Victor Hugo Marques, Flickr

Venice is one of the few remaining car-free cities in the world, but the famous canals may soon be treated more like roadways following the tragic death of a tourist earlier this month.

A German man died after the gondola he was traveling with his family in was crushed between a dock and a vaporetto, one of the city’s many waterbuses. The vaporetto, which was reversing at the time, didn’t realize anything was wrong and sailed off without a second glance.In response, the city’s mayor has announced a battery of measures aimed at controlling Venice’s chaotic waterways. The canals will soon be treated much like a street for motor vehicles, with plans to ban cell phone use while operating boats, drug and alcohol tests for drivers and more stringent rules when it comes to turning or overtaking other boats. Plans to station police officers with whistles and signs at various points along the Grand Canal are also one of the 26 measures that have been proposed by the city.

For tourists, the new rules could mean more restrictions on when and where they can take a gondola ride. Gondolas will likely be banned from the Grand Canal before mid-morning, to make room for delivery boats. Gondolas sailing from one side of the Grand Canal to the other may also be forced to cut back.

Strange Laws That Can Get You Locked Up Abroad

feeding birds venice
F Delventhal, Flickr

Getting arrested is probably far down the list of most people’s travel concerns. After all, we’re usually focused on checking museums and monuments off our bucket list — not engaging in illicit activity. But seemingly innocuous behavior can get you into trouble in many parts of the world, including things like wearing bikinis and chewing gum.

The British Foreign Office has released a warning about strange foreign laws after a report revealed that nearly a third of Britons seeking consular assistance were arrested or detained abroad. They say many travelers don’t realize that activities that are perfectly legal at home could get you locked up or fined in another country.

A few of the unusual foreign laws they highlighted include:Venice: It’s illegal to feed pigeons here.

Nigeria: Taking mineral water into the country could land you in hot water.

Singapore: Chewing gum on public transit is a big no-no.

Japan: Watch out if you have allergies. A lot of nasal sprays are on this country’s black list.

Wondering what other laws could get you locked up abroad? Here are a few more we rounded up:

Dubai: Kissing in public could land you in jail in this conservative country.

Thailand: Stepping on the local currency — which bears the image of the king — is seen as disrespecting the monarch and could get you arrested.

Greece: Wearing stilettos at archaeological sites in Greece will get you into trouble. The pointy shoes are banned because of the damage they cause to the historic monuments.

Germany: It’s against the law to run out of gas on the autobahn. Stopping unnecessarily on this fast-paced high way is illegal, and that includes those who forget to fill up their tank.

What other unusual foreign laws have you come across?

Tourists In Venice Shocked By €100 Coffee Bill

Caffe Lavena Venice Italy
Richard, enjoy my life! Flickr

It’s no secret that Europe is an expensive travel destination, but sometimes even Europeans are shocked to discover just how pricey their homeland can be.

A group of tourists from Rome got a nasty shock after enjoying a caffeine fix at a café in Venice. The travelers had taken a seat outdoors at the well-known Caffe Lavena in St. Mark’s Square where they drank four coffees and three liqueurs as they listened to live chamber music. However, things turned sour when the bill arrived, showing the group of seven owed €100 (about $134) for their drinks. The frustrated tourists say they didn’t realize that a €6/person music surcharge would be added to their check, resulting in a bill €42 higher than they were expecting.The café defended themselves by saying that all the prices were clearly listed in their menu, including the music surcharge and the €6 cost of a coffee.

This isn’t the first time tourists in Italy have been outraged by an unexpectedly high bill. Earlier this year, a group of British tourists were blindsided by a €16 charge for gelato at an ice cream shop in Rome – the story garnered so much attention it prompted the city’s mayor to apologize for the incident. And a few years back, a restaurant in Rome was actually shut down after it charged a Japanese couple €695 ($930) for a meal. Their receipt listed pasta dishes costing €200 and an obligatory tip of €115.50.

Have you ever been ripped off during your travels?