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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 15:56 GMT
No gondolas for Valentine's Day
Gondoliers' protest blocking the Grand Canal in Venice
Gondoliers say the new rules should not apply to rowing boats
Venetian gondoliers, enraged by a ban on boating at night, have gone on strike - spoiling many a couple's dream of a Valentine's Day boat trip.

The Italian city, concerned over a range of problems caused by waves, has introduced strict traffic rules.

Gondolas cannot take to the canals between 0100-1030, when deliveries of goods are made by bigger boats.

But gondoliers say the ban is unfair and are threatening to carry on their protest until the ban is revoked.

At the town hall, a spokeswoman would not say whether the mayor, Paolo Costa, was considering scrapping the night-time ban.

"The waves cause well-known problems to Venice's buildings, and the new regulations were meant to preserve their stability and fight erosion," she told the BBC News website.

"The canals are incredibly busy these days. There are cargo boats, public waterbuses, water taxis, fire brigade boats.

"The growing volume of water traffic poses a threat to the safety of passengers, too."


Traffic has been staggered for all types of boats, but gondoliers feel they have been treated unfairly.

''The new regulations are inconclusive - gondolas and all other rowing boats should be completely exempted from it,'' the gondoliers told Italian news agency ADN Kronos.

On Monday they were staging a mass protest in front of the town hall building, hundreds of their distinctive vessels "parked" just metres away from the Rialto Bridge, one of Venice's top attractions.

The rally provided an unusual photo opportunity - a meagre consolation for the many disappointed Valentine tourist couples, most of whom will probably leave Venice before the strike is over.

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