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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Venice is so over bad tourists

Two tourists on motorized surfboards were the latest to infuriate the decorum police

A parasol lies on the ground in Venice as a result of bad weather in August. (Andrea Pattaro/AFP/Getty Images)
3 min

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe — and the world — Venice sells an image of ancient wealth, singing gondoliers and Gothic architecture. The city would appreciate it if you wouldn’t mess that up.

Dating back to at least 1986, Venice has imposed decorum codes with the threat of fines. Some guidelines are intended to preserve its fragile lagoon environment, and others to preempt tourists’ antics. Recent actions have included banning cruise ships from approaching the city center and approving “day-tripper” fees for tourists that will go into effect in January.

The city promotes an #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, listing actions that are no longer allowed “to preserve urban cleanliness and landscape, and also for reasons of safety and public hygiene.” Some of the “forbidden” behavior includes sitting on the ground to eat and drink in spots such as monuments, bridges, steps or high-water walkways. Also on the list, people will be fined 350 euros ($349) if they litter or dump trash in public areas, and they’ll be fined between 25 and 500 euros if they feed pigeons. Forget about camping or biking.

Just last week, a pair of Australians drew the mayor’s ire for riding motorized surfboards in the Grand Canal, becoming the latest addition to the list of petty infractions the city won’t suffer.

Surfing in the canals

When the two visitors from Australia made waves, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wasn’t happy about it. He shared a video of the tourists surfing and tweeted about the incident in Italian. Translated to English, he said: “Here are two overbearing idiots who make a mockery of the City. I ask everyone to help us identify them to punish them.” He offered a free dinner to anyone who could help in identification. Within hours, according to local reports, the city had seized their motorized surfboards and slapped them each with a $1,500 fine.

Setting up a picnic on a landmark

In June, when Venice was reportedly seeing upward of 90,000 tourists a day, tourists were fined more than 4,000 euros for spreading out a tablecloth and setting up a picnic — equipped with wine and glasses — on top of a 300-year-old wellhead near the Campo Zaccaria.

Taking a topless photo

In January, CNN reported a Czech woman was banned from Venice for 48 hours and fined $513 after she took a topless photo on a war memorial in the Italian city. A local was walking with his son when he saw the woman and two of her friends on the monument. She went for a dip in the lagoon, leaving some of her personal items on top of the monument before she took a moment to pose.

Making coffee on the Rialto Bridge

In 2019, two German tourists in their 30s were fined 950 euros and asked to leave the city after they were caught making coffee on the steps of the Rialto Bridge, the oldest on the Grand Canal. Since then, the town introduced a new law that touches on a series of public offenses, including setting up picnics at certain sites. “Venice must be respected,” Brugnaro said at the time, “and those impolite people who come here and do what they want must understand that. Thanks to the local police, they will be sanctioned and removed.”