Roll with it, folks: Venice is not going to ban your suitcase

by Monica Cesarato Originally published in

You may have heard the recent head-scratching news that rocked Venice’s tourism scene last week. According to reports that shot around the Web [last month], the city was (allegedly) set to impose fines on tourists who dared to roll through the streets with suitcases that feature hard plastic wheels.

According to news reports, this new law was intended to prevent sound pollution and damage to the city’s historic cobblestones. Rolling offenders would face fines of €500!

Why, oh why would they do this? Doesn’t the city rely upon tourists rolling forth from the train station, water taxis and vaporetti? What are you supposed to do? Carry your suitcase for long distances? It’s a war on tourists!

But before you go online and cancel your big vacation plans for Venice, everybody just take a deep breath. It’s not happening. No law was ever passed. And furthermore, the story seems to hang on a detail that was either lost in translation or simply overlooked. And, then everyone’s imagination sort of ran off with it.

But let’s rewind…

What was proposed?

The first we heard about this improbable story here in Venice was late last week, on November 20, when the local papers ran headlines declaring that Venice had started a war against rolling suitcases, or trolleys. Most newspapers, even if they mentioned that this was merely a proposal and not yet a law, went ahead and published the date when the law would be enforced, including details about how much people would be fined.

Not surprisingly, the news shot around the Web and pretty soon Venice-bound travelers with more than a backpack went into a panic, writing to people like me (I live here and run a travel blog), asking for confirmation of the news.

I thought it was a joke and laughed the whole thing off, wondering why people were so worried: This is Italy, and even if we pass a crazy law, we never enforce it, so why all the panic?

But immediately the international newspapers picked up the story. On Friday, November 21, stories appeared on the BBC, and on Yahoo! Travel (under the headline, “No Joke: Venice Is Banning All Wheeled Suitcases for Tourists”). CNN chimed in, under the headline, “Venice to Ban 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.

Oh boy, things were now officially out of control.

So, Friday, that same day, Special Commissioner Vittorio Zappalorto (appointed to run the city after the local mayor was arrested for corruption a few months ago) issued another press release. In it, he denied that Venice was going to ban rolling suitcases and clarified that the proposed law would affect only push carts used by vendors.

This is Italy. It is totally normal here to have one official issue a statement one day that is immediately overturned the next.

The next day, Time Magazine published an article under the headline, “Venice Wants to Ban Your Noisy, Offending Suitcase Wheels,” in which the magazine declares, “Leave your efficient, easy-to-transport wheelie suitcase at home, says the gondola-filled city.”

The story obviously has, um, wheels. How could it be stopped? Even if it’s wrong, it appears to be too tasty for journalists to correct.

The press releases

I took the time to translate the two official press releases. I think you can make up your own mind.

Here’s the first press release by a local sub-commissioner. I’ve highlighted the most important part of the story.

November 20, 2014

The measures for the protection of the city, the joint statements of the sub-commisioner Scagnamiglio and the manager Dorigo.

The Special Administration of the City of Venice, making theirs a will already manifested by the previous Administration, has taken over the review activities of its endowment regulation, among these the one already in an advanced stage of working on building code.

The definition of the new text is currently in phase (administratively optional) of consultation with the professional bodies and categories for the sole purpose of improving the normative content in order to achieve maximum sharing. Among the objectives of the new regulation there was the need to find space for the management of the critical issues related to urban decay and the intensive tourist use of the largest monument in the world today, attacked by at least 27 million tourists.

In this context, an article of the draft Regulation aims to manage the protection of public places (streets and bridges), and the increasing noise pollution that the mobility of a city which moves goods and things without cars, forces on pushing wheels. Therefore it has been proposed to the interlocutors of the table for consultation, the provision (art. 23, para 7) which prohibits, over the historic center of the Old City and the Islands the use of means of transport for materials, all objects or persons on wheels, which are not of rubber or tire inflated with air or liquid.

The standard also wants to respond to the needs of the many people who in recent years have turned to the Administration indicating the severe discomfort they suffer in their homes related to the movement of goods and property in times acoustically protected by the legislation (during the night or early morning ), where the major acoustic inconvenience, generated from the provision of commercial activities (pallets of goods) or tourism (transported bed linen), focuses, all combined with a historical paving, consisting of “masegni – paving stones”, like the Venetian one (which is covered by a national law). Numerous are also, especially in recent years, the disturbing signs of a progressive deterioration and wear of the pavements and bridges which survived at first, free of damage, for hundreds of years.

It is also, of easy resolution, the possibility of adaptation of all means to the new provisions, through adapters, that companies will offer to the market and that could be of great use to all the historical centers, developing opportunity that improves quality of life to the residents in town centers with high-quality roadways.

The sub-commissioner of the City of Venice, Dott. Michele Scognamiglio, and the director Sportello Unico Edilizia del Comune di Venezia, dott. Maurizio Dorigo

This is the second press release issued by the Special Commissioner Zappalorto on November 21, 2014.

Trolley banned in Venice, the denial of the Commissioner Zappalorto

The commissioner of the City of Venice, Vittorio Zappalorto, with a note, wanted to deny the news, which appeared yesterday in a local newspaper reported and today in many newspapers and also by the international press, regarding the trolleys, which would be prohibited in the historic center unless with rubber tires inflated with air.

“I intend to deny with the utmost firmness that the City of Venice has ever thought to ban trolleys in the historic center. The draft of the building code that, I want to repeat, is a draft and which editorial work has already started with the last administration and had a further definition these days by the staff of the sub Commissioner Michele Scognamiglio, is currently undergoing a participatory process by sending it to the professional associations.

The document contains only a reference to the means of transport of goods by land, namely the carts and the pallets, that having hard wheels ruin the historical Venetian masegni, as well as causing noise pollution especially annoying if it takes place in the early hours of the morning, when many citizens still sleep. The solution to this problem must be clearly studied and shared together with the Superintendent, to the economic categories and, in general, the stakeholders.

As for the trolleys, certainly the hard wheels contribute to damaging the paving stones of the streets and squares, and especially the bridges, precisely because of the constant blows caused by the climbs and descents. This does not mean, however, that the City will ban the use of it from May. The draft is intended to regulate only, I repeat once again, with the consultation of all interested parties, the movements of goods by land in the historic city.

Any other interpretation on the subject is imaginative and not true. If then, thanks to the media brawl that followed this false scoop, some company in the industry will find appropriate solutions for the problems of Venice as in other ancient cities that share the same problems of the passage of the trolley and suitcases on wheels with our historical center, this will undoubtedly be a meritorious action that will contribute to the preservation of our architectural heritage and tranquility of residents and tourists themselves. ”

Venice, November 21, 2014 / po

Final thoughts

So then, if you are a very suspicious person like myself, you could also read into these two statements that perhaps someone in the committee must own a company that’s ready to sell some kind of rubber wheeley thingy? (Sorry, that is the Italian in me!)

All I can say is, don’t change your plans to come to Venice on account of your suitcase. Nobody is, or ever was going to, fine you for rolling along.

Now, if only we could get the international press to pay attention and correct the story. But, of course, those headlines would be less alluring.

About the author: Monica Cesarato blogs about life in Venice and the Italian lifestyle at, and offers tours and Italian cooking classes through

Photo by Charlie Leocha.