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.
Venice has just 60,000 residents, but hosts 20 million visitors in a year. That’s a lot of tourists for a small population, and the city is beginning to feel a little crowded for its citizens. Vaporettos (water taxis) on Venice’s Grand Canal are just getting too cramped for the city’s residents, and an abundance of private boats are creating waves that weaken building foundations. So Venetians, those same locals who fine tourists who don’t follow the rules and who jack up prices for rude tourists, have solved the crowding problem by starting a locals-only service.
The water taxi, Line 3, will run from Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Marco on the palace-lined waterway. The cost for residents is 1 euro (or $1.42), compared to the 6 euros tourists pay for their water taxi — even polite tourists.
A while back, I wrote about vendors in Venice jacking up the price of goods for rude tourists. Now it appears as if the people of Venice are taking it a step further and implementing fines for tourists who don’t respect the rules of the city. And these fines can range from 25 to 500 euros — ouch! The city is being patrolled by t-shirted stewards who will alert police if the rules are broken. So far, 100 tourists have been fined.
Punishable crimes include laying out food, walking about bare-chested or treating the Grand Canal like a beach, and implementing fines is the city’s effort to uphold its image as a mecca of fine art and sophistication. Still, I don’t see what’s wrong with having an innocent picnic every now and then …