A gondola drifting romantically down a Venetian canal is perhaps one of the most universal signifiers of Italy, so tourists can hardly be blamed for wanting to capture that special moment in a selfie. But one group of tourists has taken their enthusiasm so far that they have all ended up a bit more immersed in Italian culture than they might have liked – in the water.
The capsizing incident, captured, of course, on camera itself, happened as a gondolier attempted to navigate under a bridge close to St Mark’s Square. Witnesses described a group of mainly Chinese tourists, standing and shifting around in the boat as they took selfies from different angles with different Venetian backdrops.
Despite the gondolier’s pleas for the group to take their seats, his passengers continue to take photographs, gathering together on one side of the vessel, causing it to tip – and all its occupants, including the gondolier to be submerged in the canal.
Temperatures had reportedly dropped below freezing on the day in question. Gasps and cries can be heard as members of the tourist group cling to other vessels and try to keep themselves – and their phones – out of the water. The gondolier can be seen trying to help them. At one point it seems they might be trapped between two boats.
Instagram page “Venezia Non è Disneyland” (Venice Is Not Disneyland), an account that records unfortunate and anti-social tourist incidents in the city, said the drenched group was eventually rescued safely and welcomed into La Fenice theatre nearby where “hospitality and warmth” were provided.
Rule change on weight
During the high season, stories about foolish tourist behaviour in Italy were being reported every week, but the rate of incidents, that might prompt Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro to brand someone like a canal surfer an idiot had seemed to slow, until now.
Perhaps the only surprise then, given how badly tourists behave in Italy, is that an incident of this sort has not happened sooner. Venice’s gondoliering association seemed to foresee something was in the offing when it was forced to change the rules on boat capacity in 2020, due to the increasing load represented by tourists’ increasing weight.
At the time, another frank speaker Andrea Balbi, the association president, said: “Tourists are now overweight. From some countries, it’s like bombs loading on and when (the boat) is fully loaded, the hull sinks and water enters.”