Venice gondolas forced to reduce capacity because of ‘overweight tourists’

Venice’s gondolas have reduced the number of passengers they can carry, with gondoliers aiming the blame squarely at “overweight tourists”.

Previously, a gondola da nolo, which performs a classic tour of the Italian city’s famed canals, could take up to six people, while the bigger gondola da parade, used to take passengers across the Grand Canal, admitted up to 14.

These numbers have now been decreased to five and 12 respectively.

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“Tourists are now overweight,” Raoul Roveratto, the president of the association of substitute gondoliers, told La Repubblica of the decision to lower capacity.

“From some countries, bombs load [on to the boats]. And when [the boat] is fully loaded, the hull sinks and water enters. Advancing with over half a tonne of meat on board is dangerous.”

Andrea Balbi, president of Venice’s gondoliers association, agreed with the sentiment, though he was less blunt.

He told the Guardian: “It’s true that compared to 10 or 15 years ago, tourists weigh a bit more.

“Unlike in a lift, where there’s a message that says ‘only six people or a maximum weight’, we don’t have scales to weigh people, and so we reduced the number of passengers.”

It’s not the only new measure to be introduced.

In a bid to further protect the profession from outsiders, gondoliers can now pass over their licence directly to their children without them having to take a theory exam that encompasses history and a working knowledge of foreign languages.

Now, all that’s necessary is proof that the next generation know how to row a gondola and have had at least four years’ experience on their family boat.

“It is about continuing a tradition,” said Balbi. “Who better than a gondolier can know the trade of a gondolier?”

There are 433 gondoliers operating on Venice’s waterways, with a private tour costing from €80-120.

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