Like any criminal who would prefer not to get caught, I smiled and made eye contact with the mariano.
He nodded briskly, then untied the ropes. As the vaporetto plied the chalky green waters of Venice’s Grand Canal , I sat, tried not to fidget and scoped out the situation.
The ferry had its customary small crew: a captain steering, and the mariano handling everything else, including fare enforcement. In Venice, as in many other cities, public transportation works on an honour system. You show proof-of-payment on demand — but if no one demands to see your ticket, you can get away with not paying.
I hadn’t paid in days. Was the jig up?
Read the rest at The Toronto Star, where this essay appeared on 7.28.2010. The first photo in the piece (which also appears above) is my own; the second photo in the piece was taken by Jessica Spiegel of WhyGoItaly.
Also: previous essays on Venice which appeared in Perceptive Travel include: The Ritual Ride to Nowhere; When The Music Doesn’t Match the Destination; and The European Look. Venice is also mentioned in this piece on hidden cities.