Let me guess. When you read the title, you thought this was going to be about either Berkeley or San Franciso, right? I’ll confess, I thought the same thing. Who in the world would want to ban the single most useful technological advancement in travel comfort since the invention of the 50 milliliter liquor bottle? Well, relax. It’s not California (yet) and, in fact, it’s not even in the United States. Fortunately for us, this brilliant idea is thus far only taking root in Italy.
For years Venice has battled the effects of rising waters on its historic architecture, but now it’s facing a new threat — wheeled suitcases.
City officials have become so tired with the cacophony of rumbling luggage they’re introducing fines of up to 500 euros ($620) for anyone caught using one.
The move, due to come into effect in May 2015, is likely to create a headache for many of 22 million who annually visit the city and need to cart bags to hotels in car-free streets.
For locals, long tired of plastic or hard rubber wheels rattling past their windows as they try to sleep, it will come as a welcome relief.
I briefly wondered if this was some sort of environmental impact thing. Perhaps the wheels were wearing grooves in the ancient stone pathways of Venice or uprooting the cobblestones. But no… it appears that Europeans from all over are just annoyed by the noise that the little wheels make. Here’s one example: Quentin Letts gives the oh so European version of the American Get Off My Lawn speech.
Venice was a place of peaceful beauty, with no honking Fiats and beeping Alfa Romeos to jangle our nerves. The only sound was likely to be the lap of lagoon water against a gondola’s bottom, plop plop, or the coo of Venetian doves.
Dreamy holidaymakers would stroll over the Rialto bridge and all that would disturb them would be the distant strum of a guitar as some romantic diner at an outdoor ristorante asked a strolling troubadour to play That’s Amore for his or her sweetheart.
Not any more. For what is that we hear on the horizon? A steady thwub-thwub-thwub-thwub accompanied by an ugly scrrrrrrrrrr and then maybe an ‘oh, do keep up, Matilda — we’re going to be late for our hotel check-in if you don’t get a blasted move on’.
It passes. Another comes. That goes. Yet another approaches. Yes, it’s that curse of 21st-century life, the wheelie-case.
Younger readers may not believe this, but there was once a time when suitcases had to be carried. If they were trunks, such as some of us took to school, they had to be carried by more than one person — hence porters.
Believe it or not, Venice is trying to spin this as an opportunity. Letts seems to feel that we’ll all be healthier for carrying our bags, and it will probably serve to prop up the struggling profession of porters. Venice government spokesmen claim that it will open the door for some entrepreneurial luggage company to develop and offer lines of luggage with bigger, quieter, inflatable wheels.
That’s a heck of plan there, guys. It immediately got me to thinking that if we just banned cars here in the United States it could really do wonders for the livery stable industry and probably boost the sale of comfortable running shoes. But seriously… Venice pretty much exists on tourism. Could this tick enough people off that they start losing revenue? If so, they might learn to live with a little bit of extra noise and do away with this silly idea.