Postcard from... Venice


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The Independent Online


Until now the biggest danger in taking a Gondola in Venice, apart from looking faintly ridiculous, was the potential damage to your wallet. But that all changed earlier this month following a deadly collision near the lagoon city’s Grand Canal.

In retrospect it seemed like an accident waiting to happen: on 17 August, a crash between a gondola and a water-taxi in Venice’s ever more crowded canals claimed the life of a tourist.

Congestion near the famous Rialto Bridge was named as a factor behind the accident that killed Joachim Vogel, a 50-year-old German.

Venice’s mayor said this week that the city was looking at ways to limit traffic and possibly widening particularly narrow passageways – including those where the recent accident took place – to boost safety.

There may also need to be further changes. Blood and urine tests on the gondolier, Stefano Pizzaggia, suggested that he was under the influence of  cocaine and hashish at the time.The Ansa news agency reports that Pizzaggia may now face involuntary manslaughter charges. In addition to killing Mr Vogel, he threw his wife and three children into the water.

Gondoliers set up a makeshift memorial to the father and tied black ribbons to their boats in his memory, but they will need to do more than that to restore tourists’ confidence.

Last month, the gondoliers’ association considered the idea of regular drug and alcohol testing after a video posted on YouTube showed a group of gondoliers allegedly forcing an aspiring assistant to strip off and swim in a canal, as part of an initiation ceremony.