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Venice’s gondoliers to get GPS as safety trumps style

Cultura Travel | Walter Zerla | Getty Images

Once the preserve of a Venetian bygone age, the city's gondolas are set to embrace GPS, reflective strips and license plates in a bid to answer increasing concerns about tourist safety.

Two months after a German tourist was killed when the gondola he was travelling in was smashed into by a water bus, a 26-point safety plan is being discussed by the city council. Two gondoliers are currently under investigation in relation to the fatal crash.

Ugo Bergamo, Venice's transport councillor, told Corriere della Sera, "We had no alternative, we can no longer pretend that the problem does not exist. We are continuing to reduce water traffic by 50 percent in the crucial point of the Grand Canal, that which comes from the municipality of Pescheria and which includes the Rialto Bridge."

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The council will monitor gondoliers via an existing network of 40 closed circuit cameras along the Grand Canal, and gondolas will only be allowed on congested canals from 10.30 in the morning, when barges transporting goods have left the area.

According to Corriere della Sera, 1,600 boats, including 200 gondolas, pass under the Rialto Bridge in ten hours, the narrowest part of the Grand Canal.

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Councillor Bergamo said the introduction of GPS will control the speed of the gondolas as well as helping them to navigate the busy waters.

The president of the gondoliers' association, Aldo Reato, said he would discuss his views on the measures in a meeting with council on Tuesday.

Bergamo told Corriere della Sera he had no doubts that the new rules would be implemented come November 4.

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— By CNBC's Kiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley