Winter swim.

Man falls off Vaporetto

Winter swim. On Sunday, January 15th, 2023, around 1 pm, a man jumped into that canal from the Vaporetto. Before that, everything was going perfectly according to plan… The tourists enjoyed the beautiful weather, and the locals enjoyed the Sunday leave. The number 1 Vaporetto had just passed Cà Foscari going south when suddenly a splash was heard and the young man was in the canal submerging in the muddy water.

water bus venice

The sailor immediately threw him a lifesaver and the driver started signaling repeatedly for the other boats to be aware of the man overboard, as well as alerting anybody in the vicinity who could possibly help the man. In the meantime, the passengers on the Vaporetto were shouting and trying to make him grab the lifebuoy. But somehow he didn’t seem to want that. Somehow he didn’t seem to want to be saved at all.

The fascination of Venice

Venice has a very special charm. From all over the world people come for special occasions. Be it matrimonies, or re-celebrating golden weddings… Or exclusive gifts in form of travel experiences. Thousands of 50-, 60- and 70 years birthdays are celebrated in Venice every year.

But the fascination of La Serenissima appeals to those who have darker and more tragic motives as well. Much like other famous destinations, Venice sometimes attracts suicide candidates. At this time, Monday the 16th, we still don’t know why the man threw himself in the water. But we do know that he didn’t want to be helped at all. He didn’t want to get back onto the Vaporetto.

The Rescue

The passengers on the water bus and the sailors desperately tried to make him grab the lifebuoy and to pull him up onboard. But he refused and continued moving away from the hull. The water temperature in January is around 8° Celsius (46° F), and chance of survival is good if you are saved within reasonable time. Still, if you don’t want to be saved, that time could easily stretch out.

Anyway, at the close by Gondola station at San Tomà the two gondoliere Riccardo Caenazzo and Alvise Nardin Lupetto heard the screams and the hooting and without delay they set out with the big traghetto gondola.

winter swim
Cà Foscari, Venice’ University. This is more or less where it happened

– At first the man didn’t want to be helped, said Caenazzo. He wanted to stay where he was… We tried to convince him to grab our outstretched hands but he just wouldn’t. “Don’t touch me” he said again and again. So, after a short while we just seized him by force and pulled him out of the water. He was shaking from the freezing temperature and his face was blue…

But why on earth would someone do that?

winter swim
Barcheta a massoche. A bigger gondola for up to 13 passangers.

They brought him back to the small shed at the gondola station. There they managed to get him out of his wet clothes and wrap him in a blanket. Shortly after the police together with the ambulance showed up and they brought him to the hospital Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

– We still don’t know if he wanted to end his life or if he was just not himself for some other reason. Once at San Tomà he didn’t resist being helped but he kept repeating “Swimming… swimming…” as if he was in a confused state. Did he actually think a winter swim in Grand Canal is a good idea?

Saving his life

The two gondoliers are something of heroes. And it’s not the first time professionals of their trade assume that role. Every now and then these guys save a child from drowning, stop an ongoing robbery, or simply stop people from swimming in the canal etc. But the two boatsmen at San Tomà don’t want to talk about it in those terms.

– No, we’re not heroes. We only did what was necessary to save the guy. Of course, between fatigue and anxiety, the tension eases very slowly, Alvise adds with a smile.