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The tourist rip-off

Di Antonio Caneva, 25 Giugno 2004

During the last few years I have often been to Bellano, on the Lecco side of Lake Como, to the pleasant Pesa Veja restaurant which is managed by two very nice young people, and every time I made a note for myself to come back and visit the much-publicised attraction of the village: the Bellano Gorge. Finally, fifteen days ago, I made up my mind and got into my car to go and satisfy this curiosity. You access the Gorge from the very centre of the village. At the entrance you find the counter, where you buy a 3 euro ticket; here, reminiscent of a TV commercial and a coverage I had recently read in Traveller, where masses of waters were seen falling over the rocks, I asked whether I would likely be feeling cold, having left my pullover in the car. The reply was: “Certainly not, you see, with the drought we’ve had there is little water.” Strange. Anyway we went in, and walked the few metres of a catwalk from where we could see a trickle of water slide down a rock and collect in a pool of almost still, dirty water at the bottom. That was it: two hundred metres of catwalk, and then the exit. Our first consideration was that this year we can complain about anything but a drought, and the following one was that, if the attraction has lost its function (a dramatic waterfall in a rocky landscape) it is purposeless to advertise it as something that still exists, charging it three euros to unknowing people who have been attracted by a misleading commercial.
Last Saturday I went to Venice and made my usual pilgrimage to the places of my childhood; I reached Campo Santa Maria Formosa and entered the church where I was baptised and where I took my First Communion: the church that used to be my point of reference. I had just moved a few steps inside the church, when a lady approached me to ask if I had bought the ticket. “For what? I only wish to stop a little to reflect, take a look around and go out again.” “I am sorry – was the reply – you have to pay to come in.”. Irritated, I asked: “Isn’t the church open to the public?” The lady was annoyed by my remark and insisted “You have to pay to come in.” I naturally left, and walking around the church to go towards San Marco through the back entrance, the one facing the canal, I saw that a sad funeral procession was entering the church at that moment, and a Japanese couple were accessing the cathedral in their midst, unaware that they were avoiding paying the ticket they would have incurred had they gone through the main entrance. Ridiculous.
I already have problems accepting that in Venice you have to pay five euros to take a vaporetto (the boat equivalent of a tram or bus in the mainland), while Venetians only pay one euro, but charging a ticket to enter a place of cult that is open to the public seems to me an outright aberration.
Two small episodes deserving to be placed under a heading quoted from a famous Italian film: “Let’s go on this way. Let’s hurt ourselves.”

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