Violence in Venice is rather rare, it is generally considered a fairly safe place to be.
However, yesterday, a man stepped into a bar in the Via Garibaldi, which I pass very often and frequent at times, with his face covered, pulled out a gun and shot twice at the owner who was behind the counter.
The owner being Egyptian, having taken over the bar just a few month earlier, everybody reckoned that it was something internal to the immigrant community in Venice.
The police arrived promptly, the victim taken to the hospital with a non life threatening would to the throat, and within a few hours the police had identified the attacker, and he was arrested outside his home shortly after.
Alessandro Pellegrini, 34 years, gondolier by profession, had entered the bar at 10am in the morning, drunk, ordered a spritz which he soon spilled over the entire counter. The man behind the bar, the owner, reproached him and refused to serve him more.
This didn’t go down well, and apparently being a staunch defender of all things Venetian (as the Ente Gondola often claims the gondoliers are), went to get a gun, covered his face and returned for his revenge.
As someone who have chosen Venice has his home, this story (and the accident in Canal Grande last month) leaves me with a sour taste in the mouth. The gondoliers, the self-claimed defenders and symbols of Venice, are at times drugged, drunk, armed and violent.
I don’t believe this is the image the Ente Gondola, the city of Venice or any of its residents would like Venice to have.
There is something rotten in the state of the Serenissima.
Agguato a colpi di pistola in un bar, arrestato un gondoliere /Foto – Il Gazzettino.
René Seindal there is no excuse for this gondolier’s behavior; late last night when I read and referred the news to my husband, who is a third generation gondolier and loves his job and his city, we both sighed deeply and said ‘mancava solo questo’–‘that’s all that was missing’. But, please don’t judge 400+ gondoliers based on a few who behave inexcusably. I’m certain there are professional kayakers or other professions around the globe and in Venice with members that don’t always behave according to the law. But their behavior often goes without comment. Certainly, Venice’s gondoliers are always in the ‘spot-light’ and make for good giornalistic ‘copy’–though the positive is rarely written about. This is not to say that certain members of this category don’t pull deserved criticism their way, it just should be given to the individual, not as a blanket that suffocates those who have nothing to do with these unforgiveable deeds.
Marie, I know well that there are many honest and hard working gondoliers around. I also know that there are a good deal of hustlers and persons who should in no way be allowed to “represent” Venice in any way. Those who rip off Russian tourists €400 for a 30 minute tour, those filmed by Striscia la Notizia charging exorbitant and illegal prices, and the “expert oarsman” involved in the Rialto accident (at 25 years, having taken cocaine and hashish, what an expert). I hear the young gondoliers on the canals of the city talking. “Oh, its been a good day, I’ve made at least €5000”. I do understand what they’re saying. Again, there are lots and lots of decent, honest, hard working gondoliers but there are way too many rotten apples in the basket, and way way too little is done to clean it up.
In preparing for my first visit to Venice I was concerned to find many on-line warnings about pick-pockets and groups of thieves targeting tourists in a number of ways. During my nine days in Venice I felt very safe, however, especially compared to the sense of danger experienced at the train station in Padova! As someone living in Canada, across the border from the Detroit in the USA, I can attest to the negative effect on a city’s image that results from a few “too many rotten apples”. This recent problem with gun violence in Venice needs to be jumped on quickly.
Once again, I can’t condemn or blame the young gondolier for the accident. Vogel’s wife made it very clear–and she was there–that the gondolier is not at fault. I also can’t say that he’s not an expert oarsman. He does have a license and therefore went through all the necessary requirements and time (years) on a gondola. We still need to understand when he used the illegal substances; from what I’ve heard it wasn’t that same day, but we’ll have to wait for the court to explain and clarify that. If he did use on that very same day then he’ll have to face the consequences. I agree there are a few too many ‘rotten apples’ who cast a very dark shade on those who abide by the rules. However, I can assure you that in 26 years of marriage my gondolier has never earned 5000 euro in one day! That’s physically impossible. And believe me when I say there are those who are trying to ‘clean up’ the various problems, but as most situations go when you’re dealing with a large group of individuals and city bureaucracy, it’s not easy nor very quick. I can’t say much more here, but the gondoliers themselves are asking for overall tighter controls.
In the end I agree with some of what you are saying, 5000 euro per day aside. If the court finds him negligent than he should not work as a gondolier. He hasn’t returned to work since the accident. However, if a gondolier works 10 hours a day, he’d have to charge 500 euro per trip, and that, even with the most dishonest, is not going to happen. It would be impossible to find 10 families/couples in one day to pay that exhorbitant fee. However those that do charge by the person are the TOUR AGENCIES not the gondoliers! The TOUR AGENCIES, cruise lines and tour guides are charging 25-50 euro per person, filling the gondolas with 6 people giving the gondolier the city rate of 80 euro and pocketing the rest. Whya aren’t people outraged at that???? Hello Venice–city of Venice–charges 28 euro for a voucher per person assigning 6 people per gondola per ride and pay the gondolier 70-80 euro for 30-35 minutes. THAT is the truth. So while there are abuses by some gondoliers let’s keep the story straight. And the latest most accurate news about the ‘gondolier’ that was involved in yesterday’s shooting in Via Garibaldi is that he hasn’t worked as a gondolier (substitute gondoler because he doesn’t have a license) for over two years, precisely because of his apparent personal problems