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.

A Canadian in Beijing: Floating Billboards on The Bund

Since I’m on vacation here in Shanghai, it stands to reason that I ought to act like a tourist once in awhile. I have been snapping photos like one since I arrived, to be sure, but besides visiting The Great Wall, I haven’t yet taken in many historically significant sites. For once, I read a guide book and took the advice of the pages therein. They advised me to take in the waterfront in Shanghai, particularly on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The Bund, also known as Zhongshan road, is an historical section of waterfront that stretches a little less than one mile on the western front of the “Pu Xi” (West City) and looks out to the eastern part of Shanghai known as “Pu Dong.” It is raised and separate from the roadway and proved to be a popular tourist destination on this sunny day. I was among them and I got the requisite photo taken across from the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower as well as one of the tallest in the world, the Jin Mao Tower. (Hard to believe that, coming from Toronto and knowing the scale of the CN Tower!)

The Bund is part of the Huangpu River, an essential shipping route and regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for many years. There are lots of cruises available in these waterways that are flanked by huge corporate modern structures intermingled with a diversity of architecture from many different cultures across many centuries. It’s clear that this port has long been an international one, and not just because of the wide diversity of faces we can see walking along and snapping pictures just like us.

I thought it would be a great place for a romantic stroll on a warm evening and this thought warmed me into stalling and going to the edge of the walkway to peer over. I stared out into the river to see muddy waters below. My gaze followed the river’s current out and north-westward where the waters were guarded by Nikon and Nestle and other multinationals.

Between their buildings and my perch, there was a boat cruising slowly across the harbour with a giant screen and constant television advertisements flashing brightly for all to see. I could think of nothing more I’d rather NOT see than commercials at that moment. Talk about muddying the waters… A floating billboard on the Bund?!

I took that as a sign that I had seen enough. I turned and left, having walked only about halfway.

Still, I am happy and grateful to have seen an historical section of an ancient port, and this moment of its development is no less valid. It, too, will eventually become part of history.

Pic of me by Sarah Keenan