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TOURISM

Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

With bans on everything from beachwear to snacking in the wrong places, there are a few things you should know before a trip to famously rule-heavy Venice.

Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice
It may be easier than you think to cause trouble in Venice. Here's how to stay on the right side of the law - and local residents. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

By now, most regular visitors to Italy know better than to do things like bathe in fountains, wander the streets and piazzas in revealing swimwear, or pocket pieces of the local monuments. All of the above could land you with a hefty fine.

READ ALSO: ‘Bikini ban’: Why Italy’s Sorrento has outlawed swimwear

But while the above rules might appear fairly obvious, over the years a number of Italian destinations have introduced more eyebrow-raising bans, mainly in the name of preserving ‘decorum’.

Venice, the crown jewel of northern Italy, in particular boasts a rather lengthy list of “forbidden behaviours”, aimed at “preserv[ing] urban cleanliness and landscape, and also for reasons of safety and public hygiene”.

Now, if you’re thinking that these measures are the urban equivalent of a scarecrow and are only in place to ‘frighten’ visitors into respecting the city, think again.

The regulations are enforced day in and day out by local authorities, and those flouting the rules do receive steep fines – as in the example of two German backpackers fined a total of 950 euros in summer 2019 after being caught making coffee on the Rialto Bridge.

So here’s a quick look at what NOT to do to avoid getting in trouble while visiting Venice.

  • As you may have heard, Venice has a strict beachwear ban. Don’t walk around bare-chested or in a swimsuit, unless you want to risk being fined 250 euros.
  • No eating or drinking while sitting on the ground or on the steps of the city’s monuments. The same goes for those who might be tempted to have a snack while sitting astride a bridge railing. Transgressors receive a fine of 100-200 euros and, above all, a city ban (also known as DASPO urbano), i.e. they will be immediately and indefinitely banned from the city.
  • Though the traditionally murky waters might not be that enticing at first sight, the summer heat still tempts some visitors into swimming in the canals. Don’t do it. The fine here is 350 euros and, again, it comes with a city ban.

  • Don’t feed the pigeons or seagulls. As a Venice resident, I can assure you that the local fauna is doing just fine and is in no need of external assistance. Fines for feeding the city’s birds range from 25 to 500 euros.
  • Bicycles and e-scooters are forbidden in the city centre, even when only led by hand. However, you can use them in Lido, Pellestrina and Punta Sabbioni.
  • No camping in public areas. Check before you pitch a tent or bivouac – you could be hit with a 200-euro fine and a city ban. Camping is allowed in Lido, Punta Sabbioni or in the mainland.
  • Don’t buy items from street peddlers. You can be fined anything from 100 to 7,000 euros for buying counterfeit goods. Also, unsurprisingly, any purchased item will be confiscated.
  • Don’t litter or dump rubbish in public areas. This one might sound obvious but, like the accompanying rule against dog fouling, exists for a reason. Fine: 350 euros.
  • Dogs must be on a leash and wear a muzzle on public transport, whereas smaller animals must be transported in a carrier. You can be denied access to the service otherwise.

Bonus unofficial rules

While these aren’t legally enforceable, flouting the following unspoken rules could incur the wrath of the locals – something that could be far more unpleasant than a fine.

  • Don’t block the calli. Venice is known for its narrow streets, or calli. Try not to stop in the middle of a calle or a bridge to avoid creating blockages and, above all, spare yourself the rage of residents going about their day. If possible, always stand on the right so as to allow people to walk past you.
  • Take off your backpack on public transport. The city’s buses and waterbuses (or vaporetti) are usually very crowded, especially during peak hours and over the summer months. So this will decrease your chances of hitting other passengers in the face.
  • Be quiet. Venice is a relatively small city, with most houses overlooking at least one calle. When walking through residential areas, try to be as silent as you possibly can to avoid upsetting residents.
  • Recycle properly. If you’re staying in an apartment or flat, don’t forget about recycling and waste collection. Find out more via a mobile app offered by Veritas, the local waste management company.
Tourists fined for consuming food on the ground in Venice
 

What isn’t banned

You may have heard that wheelie suitcases are banned in Venice, but in fact you can safely bring them to the city. A ban on dragging luggage through the streets was proposed in 2014 due to the noise, but it was never enacted. 

That doesn’t mean residents will appreciate being woken by the sound of your rolling luggage rumbling through the calli, so refer to the unofficial rule above and take care if you arrive late at night.

READ ALSO: Drink from fountains not plastic bottles, Venice tells visitors

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TOURISM

Trulli to treehouses: Why Italy’s tourists can’t get enough of ‘back to basics’ travel

Italy's mountain huts, treehouses and even caves are being given luxury makeovers and rented to tourists, often for eyewatering prices - and people are happy to pay. Reporter Silvia Marchetti looks at what's behind the growing trend.

Trulli to treehouses: Why Italy’s tourists can’t get enough of ‘back to basics’ travel

I believe there’s nothing more luxurious than simplicity, especially when it comes down to accommodation and travel. 

And it seems that tourists visiting Italy agree. Several accommodation business owners have recently told me there’s a high demand for chic but simple experiences, both in terms of holiday homes to rent and hotels, as well as restaurants. 

Unexpectedly, these places are more expensive to buy or rent than modern rentals and hotels. 

There’s a sort of ‘expensive poverty’ glamour that lures travelers. That’s why there’s been such a revival of ancient dwellings across Italy, well beyond the famous luxury spa-type hotels set in old cave houses like the ones in Matera, Grottole and other southern areas.

It’s an emerging trend that feeds the primeval nature of man. Travellers want to reconnect with mankind’s ancient heritage – but with money and a few modern comforts.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s west or east coast the best place for a holiday?

Take the simple treehouses that are springing up recently in Puglia, near Foggia, within lush forests where visitors are surrounded by nature – but at the same time inside a cozy room. The experience may recall our prehistoric roots in some way.

Or reverting to sleeping in sea grottos originally inhabited by primitive men, then turned into cozy white-washed fishermen shelters where entire crews would take shelter during storms.

A renovated fisherman’s hut on Italy’s Ponza island. Photo: Touristcasa

The tiny atoll of Palmarola off Rome’s coast is dotted with fishermen grottos turned into élite summer retreats, rented with private dinghies starting from 500 euros per person per night. One such grotto home has a double entrance that cuts right through the rock, so you have panoramic sea views on both sides – great for solo morning swims. 

On the nearby island of Ponza, where caveman used to go looking for the precious obsidian black stone, clifftop seafront villas cut into hillsides are the most in-demand accommodation.

I once met a young couple who was staying in one of these for two weeks and it was funny how they enjoyed such an isolated place with no easy access (only by boat). At night they would climb down to their little dock along a steep dark path without any lights lined with prickly pear shrubs to get to a little dinghy (that comes with the villa) that would take them each time to the main village to shop, eat and so on. It was like their scooter.

I fell, scratched my legs and nearly broke my neck visiting, and it was daylight. They enjoyed going around with flashlights at night because it was cool, they said. Oh, and their kingsize shower also had a limited water supply, because it used rainwater as a source like in the good old days. 

The view from a fisherman’s hut on Italy’s Ponza island. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

This is all part of a new  trend that’s unique to Italy, given the country’s rich, ancient architectural heritage. 

The cone-shaped trulli of Puglia are an iconic type of accommodation, found not only in Alberobello, the most touristy place of all, but scattered all over the area, where families that own one in their backyard can rent it at high prices – as referenced in the funny Italian movie titled ‘Mi rifaccio il trullo’ (I’ll give my trullo a makeover).

READ ALSO: Why visitors to Italy are ditching hotels – and where they’re staying instead

Last time I visited the Alto Adige region I was surprised at seeing so many old ‘masi’, which are Alpine dairy lodges and farms built by ancient shepherd tribes with thick stone walls and slanted roofs, lavishly restyled and transformed into country houses offering ‘nature stays’. The ‘spa’ at the one I stayed at was the actual freezing stream outside with currents, so I just had to take a dip and have my legs massaged by the running water, and the spring water served at dinner came also from that same stream. 

The owners are a very rich couple who hate cars, so they would travel from their house to the lodge on horseback. Obviously all the teas and herbs I drank came from the maso’s garden.

Part of an Alpine maso in Alto Adige. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

In Sicily I found interesting salt pan mills turned into panoramic bars, while near my house medieval olive oil millis, or frantoi, are now busy pizzerias and B&Bs with stone rooms featuring the original grindstones.

In the region of Abruzzo, the entire coast is dotted with old wooden sea huts dubbed Trabocchi suspended above water with fishnets, abandoned by fishermen families after the second world war and now turned into restaurants with a cute, romantic vibe.

All these ancient dwellings which are being restored for tourist use are in demand because they offer a chapter of history and an ‘immaterial cultural experience’. That is why people are prepared to pay whatever the price. 

It’s a bit like renting a tribal tent in an African luxury resort: you’d be paying more for the ‘emotions’ it triggers than the tent itself.

With savvy travelers always looking for that special, out-of-the-ordinary experience, this ‘luxury poverty’ accommodation trend will only keep growing in popularity.

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