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Tourist fines for bad behavior

Venice, Italy's public officials make it easy to match your misdemeanor to your budget.

Tourists on church steps in Venice

ABOVE: Before you sit down, have your wallet ready in case you're slapped with a €100 to €200 fine.

The expression "biting the hand that feeds you" is nowhere more appropriate than in Venice, Italy, where tourism brings in upwards of €1.5 billion in a typical year.

Major events such as Carnevale and the Biennale art fair draw millions of visitors annually, and public officials have continued to expand the city's tourist infrastructure with new parking facilities, new hotels, and new piers for the private water buses that shuttle daytripper tour groups to the Piazza San Marco.

Yet local politicians seldom miss an opportunity to lambaste tourists for "bad behavior"--or to convert tourist sins (no matter how trifling) into a profit opportunity.

In a remarkable display of tourist hand-biting, the City of Venice has published a menu of "Forbidden Behavior" that lists the fine for each offense. For example:

  • Bathing, diving, or swimming in canals: 350 euros.

  • Littering: 350 euros.

  • Walking around bare-chested or in a swimsuit: 250 euros.

  • Feeding pigeons or seagulls: 25 to 500 euros.

  • Camping in public areas: 200 euros.

  • Sitting on the ground, on steps, etc.: 100 to 200 euros.

  • Riding or pushing a bicycle: 100 euros.

One has to wonder how many tourists actually swim in Venice's public sewers (a.k.a. canals) or camp out in the city's campi. And yes, tourists (and locals) who sit on narrow footbridges are an impediment to pedestrian traffic.

But fining visitors up to 200 euros for taking a load off their feet, 250 euros for removing a shirt, or 500 euros for tossing bread to seagulls is nothing more than municipal greed--although it's hardly surprising in a place where visitors pay six times as much for a waterbus ride as locals do, and where the city has announced that it will charge admission for day visits to the centro storico or historic center.

  • Footnote: The only person I've seen in a Venetian canal was a dead man--a local who had drunk too much on the last night of Carnival and fallen into the water. (One can only hope that his bereaved family weren't fined 350 euros as punishment for his bad luck.)

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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