Venice proposes alcohol testing for gondoliers

YouTube video of drunken ganzer skinny dipping makes waves

The guzzling gondoliers

Photo by Marco Secchi

After complaints about the drunken antics of Venice’s famous gondoliers, the island city is deciding whether to Breathalyze the rowers.

Problems came to a head when video of a hazing of a would-be “ganzer,” a gondola assistant, was uploaded to YouTube. It showed a group of apparently sloshed gondoliers making him strip naked and jump into the Grand Canal near St. Mark’s Square in the heart of tourist-dependent Venice. Local councillors called it a “despicable act.”

Seeking to get ahead of the crisis, Nicola Falconi, head of the rowers’ association, told ANSA, the news agency, “Given that unruly behaviour is on the increase, I’m proposing tests, which would be conducted without warning.” And Falconi wants tests for drinking and drug use to apply to everyone who plies Venice’s canals, including drivers of the city’s water buses, the vaporetti. Without libations lubricating gondolier voices, the waters may soon be safer, but also a bit quieter.