Venice gondola tours are reducing capacity on their boats because of too many overweight tourists, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
The smaller boats running through the city’s charming canals have reduced capacity from six to five people. While the larger boats used to cross the Grand Canal have dropped its maximum from 14 to 12 passengers, Venice’s gondoliers association told the outlet.
“It’s true that compared to 10 or 15 years ago, tourists weigh a bit more,” Andrea Balbi, president of the association said. “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.”
Heavier loads can lead to more water spilling into the boat. And the smaller gondolas were initially made for only five passengers, anyway, with the sixth sitting in a section without any padding, Balbi said.
Raoul Roveratto, the president of the association of substitute gondoliers, was blunter in describing the gravity of the situation with the Italian daily La Republica.
“Tourists are now overweight. From some countries, bombs load [on to the boats],” Roveratto reportedly told the outlet. “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.”
The capacity limits came with another policy that allows children of gondoliers to take over their parent’s licenses without having to pass an arduous exam involving history and foreign language studies, according to the Guardian.
Offspring now can obtain a license by more simply demonstrating they can row a gondola and have had at least four years’ experience operating the family’s boat, according to G
The gig is almost exclusively passed down through gondolier families. The police further ensures the position stays within the industry’s current families.
There are currently 433 gondoliers and 180 substitute gondoliers. Substitutes are allowed work on behalf of a gondolier who owns their own operating license.
“It is about continuing a tradition,” Balbi said. “Who better than a gondolier can know the trade of a gondolier? … it would be a like a pizza maker who isn’t from Naples.”