Small towns in the South are known for enriching their coffers with speed traps. In Venice, the trap doesn’t involve speeding, but the scam to enrich the city at tourists’ expense is essentially the same.
If you’re like me, you’ve always dreamed of taking a ride on the Grand Canal in this unique city.
The first thing John and I did when we got to Venice this morning was buy a one-way ticket on the vaporetto to Piazza San Marco. When we went to the dock to catch the boat, we saw electronic signs notifying travelers that service in the canal had been suspended due to high tides.
We went back to the ticket agent who assured us that this was not the case and personally walked us and a Korean mother and daughter down to the dock. At no time during these two exchanges did the agent tell us that the tickets had to be validated nor did we see any signage or validating machines to that effect.
We boarded the crowded boat and no one asked for our tickets. We settled in to enjoy the ride. The trip down the canal was amazing!
We were in the back of the boat and almost to our stop when they came to collect our tickets, then informed us that we would be “fined” 59 euros (75 bucks!) each because we had not validated our tickets. Tickets on some trains and buses in Italy must be inserted in a machine to be time stamped. Apparently the same applies to vaporettos in Venice. Who knew? Not us, not the Koreans nor the couple from Scotland, etc. In short, not the non-Italian tourists.
The fine collectors were not in uniforms, but carried little ID badges. All three were fluent in English. They demanded payment, in cash, on the spot.
The other tourists, understandably, felt pressured to pay, but hung around to watch John and I argue with the fine collectors. We refused to pay them, suggesting they take us to a police station where we would take the issue up with the police. They declined to take us to a police station and gave us a ticket, telling us we would receive a bill at our address in Florence and in the USA, but it would be for “more than 59 euros.”
My favorite part of the entire exchange was when the female fine agent chastising me told me that in the absence of a sign or the ticket agent telling me the ticket had to be validated, I should have asked. Translation: We’re scamming you and it’s your fault.
Since I will never see Venice again, I was determined to enjoy the rest of my visit. I did! It’s an intriguing place. Where else would you see people enjoying lunch while the water rises around them? They sit unperturbed sporting their disposable Wellingtons.
John doesn’t have any Wellies, but he was prepared for high tide nonetheless.