My friend Vonda recently sent me this link for an article about Gondoliers Gone Wild:
Apparently, a group of these striped-shirted-guys were hazing a young apprentice and made him jump nekkid into the Grand Canal. Apparently, alcohol was involved. You can see from the feature photo, too, that they are not the only gondoliers caught drinking on the job. Their association president has threatened to impose random alcohol and drug testing.
What do you think of this? I get that these guys are the face of the city, as the mayor pointed out. More so than vaporetto or taxi drivers, waiters, shop clerks, and museum personnel, gondoliers are the most visible and ubiquitous icons in the city. And at a time when tourist ducats are most necessary to Venice’s continued survival, they can’t afford to turn people off. I certainly wouldn’t welcome, say, American cab drivers teaching the new kid the ropes by making him or her run nekkid around the car at a red light.
I guess I’m not a very good judge, though. Granted, I have a soft spot for gondoliers. I’ve spent happy hours eating watermelon with them during their afternoon break, getting Italian lessons while traversing the Grand Canal in the traghetto, or delivering messages in Venetian slang. And I wish could have been there to see the apprentice take his canal bath. I admit it–I would have been laughing.