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Tourists fined for surfing along Venice's Grand Canal, drawing mayor's ire

NBC News logo NBC News 8/18/2022 Claudio Lavanga and Matteo Moschella and Chantal Da Silva
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ROME — Two apparent tourists in Venice have been fined after being seen surfing on the city's Grand Canal, drawing the ire of the travel hotspot's mayor.

Appearing to ride eFoils, or electric surfboards, the two surfers could be seen tearing down the waterway in video shared on social media. The Grand Canal is not only the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, but also serves as a key water-traffic corridor in the city.

Local paper Il Gazzettino said the incident unfolded Wednesday.

The city's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, did not take kindly to the display, branding the surfers "two arrogant imbeciles who made a mockery of Venice" in a tweet.

The video shared by the mayor, which has not been verified by NBC News, appears to show the pair speeding down the canal and passing just by a vaporetto, or water taxi.

Determined to catch the duo, Brugnaro offered up free dinner to anyone who was able to identify the pair.

The pair were eventually caught by police "thanks to the analysis of CCTV footage" and information provided by residents, the mayor's office said in a later statement.

The two surfers were fined 1,500 euros ($1,527) each, it said, while their surfboards, valued at a total of around 25,000 euros ($25,446), were also seized.

The mayor said the city of Venice had also asked lawyers to launch proceedings against the pair for damaging the image of the city.

It was not immediately clear where the two surfers were from, but the mayor said they were foreign citizens.

Venice is one of the world's most famous tourist destinations, with roughly 25 million visitors a year. But while the city has welcomed tourists, Italian officials have pushed back against the impact their visits can have on the treasured city.

Last year, Italy banned big cruise ships from sailing into the city after years of outcry from residents, culture bodies and environmentalists. The ban applied to ships weighing more than 25,000 tons, longer than 590 feet or with other characteristics that could create too much pollution or overwhelm Venice's marine environment.

At the time, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the government had acted fast “to avoid the concrete risk” that UNESCO, which protects the city and its lagoon, would add Venice to its list of “world heritage in danger.”

Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome, and Matteo Moschella and Chantal Da Silva reported from London.

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