Ice-cream wars as gondoliers snub Cornetto tune requests

Venice's famous gondoliers are up in arms over requests from tourists to continually sing ice-cream jingle O sole Mio instead of being serenaded with local melodies.

According to the Association of Venice Gondola Rowers, visitors to the famous lagoon city ask for O sole Mio - made famous by the 1980s classic "just one Cornetto" television advert, more than anything else.

A romantic ride along the picturesque canals of the northern Italian city can cost as much as 100 for 30 minutes - so for that price tourists would be expected to get whatever song they ask for.

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However, Venice city councillor Alberto Mazzonetto, who is also a member of the ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Northern League party, said: "Most of the songs sung by gondoliers come from southern Italy.

"This is detrimental to tourists as it presents a distorted image of the city of Venice as some kind of new Disneyland, which has little to do with the place."

He added: "I'm not blaming the gondoliers, it is not their fault.

"Instead, I blame the Gondola Authority - they get €600,000 (518,461) a year from the council and they do have the power to do something.

"They can tell gondoliers what to wear and what not to wear - for instance, they are not allowed to wear trainers and there is a disciplinary code so they could tell them to sing more Venetian songs.

"It is an insult to our heritage and a real punch to the stomach to have Venetian gondoliers singing songs from southern Italy."

The Northern League is well known for its contempt of southern Italy, as well as its dislike of immigrants from outside the country.

Mr Mazzonetto added that he had heard reports that some gondoliers had been refusing to sing songs from southern Italy, but pointed out that, ultimately, the customer was paying so if they insisted there was nothing that could be done.

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However singer-songwriter Nino D'Angelo, who is from Naples, defended the southern Italian songs.

She said: "O Sole Mio is a famous Neapolitan song that's known all over the world.

"It's one of the most beautiful songs and I don't believe anyone has forced the gondoliers to sing it.

"On the contrary, I think tourists request it - it's not just a Neapolitan song but a world anthem."

Aldo Reato, president of the Association of Venice Gondola Rowers, said: "We try to open and close the gondola ride with a Venetian song but the problem is tourists only know O Sole Mio.

"They don't know any others."

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