Tourists apprehended after taking gondola for Venice joyride

(CNN) — Another week, another wave of terrible tourist behavior in Italy.

Just behind a woman posing nude on the steps of the Amalfi cathedral, two tourists in Venice were arrested for allegedly stealing a gondola.

The duo, allegedly of French nationality, are accused of stealing the gondola from the Accademia station, next to the famous bridge of the same name, to take a ride along the Grand Canal at around 1:30 am on Thursday.

The gondola’s owner, Giorgio Bognolo, said the boat’s contents – a cover, cushions, embellishments and other items worth several hundred dollars – were thrown into the canal, before being rowed like a canoe.

He said the joyriders were arrested when three residents on a passing boat noticed the gondola zigzagging back and forth across the canal and realized something was wrong.

Tourists threw the interiors and decorations of the Bognolo gondola into the canal.

Tourists threw the interiors and decorations of the Bognolo gondola into the canal.

Giorgio Bognolo

‘They were laughing’

In addition to potentially facing criminal charges for aggravated theft, the duo also face a civil lawsuit for damages from Bognolo.

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The gondolier told CNN he was called at 3:10 am by police, who had identified the boat as his.

“They used it as a canoe, but a gondola is not like a canoe – it doesn’t go straight,” he said. “It’s not an easy boat to manoeuvre, it moves here and there and stops. You row it standing, with the forcola” — the curved piece of wood on which the single oar fits.

“Three guys immediately saw that it had been stolen, stopped them and called the police. They saved my gondola, otherwise who knows where it would have ended up in the morning.”

Bognolo said the two tourists – both male and in their 30s – were laughing when he arrived to identify his gondola, which ended up at the Guggenheim Museum, about 300 meters from their starting point.

“They looked happy – very happy. They weren’t apologetic, they weren’t apologetic. They were cold, it was ugly, that’s what really hurt me. They were laughing like it was all a game.

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“They did a very ugly thing – if I did something like that in France they would lock the key. They are extremely lucky. [to have done it in Italy]. The police kept us apart, but I wish I had slapped them.”

The pair of tourists stole the gondola that was docked to spend the night on the Accademia Bridge.

The pair of tourists stole the gondola that was docked to spend the night on the Accademia Bridge.

Juanma Aparicio/Adobe Stock

Gondolas are not cheap mass-produced boats. Bognolo says his hand-carved vase costs €60,000 ($59,000), and he spends €3,000 a year to repaint it.

“Gondolas are really delicate and beautiful, and it takes a lot of money to maintain one,” he said. “It’s like sending your daughter to school well-groomed. I spend a lot of money to keep her. It’s like someone touching your wife or daughter.”

‘This is not Disneyland’

Bognolo’s lawyer, Augusto Palese, told CNN that his client is seeking compensation for the items allegedly thrown off the gondola, as well as scratches and damage to the vessel, totaling around €10,000 to €15,000 ($9,900 to $14,750). ). Damages will also be claimed for lost profits for the days it is under repair, plus “moral damages”.

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He expects to complete the civil suit in about a month, while the criminal case can take up to six months.

And he said moving forward with the charges isn’t just about the money.

“If people do damage, they have to pay for it, but it’s for our image too,” he told CNN. “A lot of times people think they’re coming to Disneyland here, or to a theme park. In fact, a gondola is something someone needs to live and work. You can’t just steal it.

“The gondola is a symbol — [damaging it] It’s like throwing rocks at the Eiffel Tower.”

“Once they fell [a stolen gondola] on New Year’s and when we got to them, one of them was dying of hypothermia. We saved him,” he said.

CNN contacted Venice state police police to comment.

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