It is one of the most enduring images in tourism: a gondola on a canal in Venice, the Rialto bridge in the background, its passengers a couple in the fullest bloom of romance, and a proud gondolier punting along while belting out Giovanni Capurro’s timeless ‘O Sole Mio’.
BUT look a little closer: his eyes are bloodshot. He’s slurring his words. He can’t punt straight.
The Venetian gondolier community is in crisis after it was revealed last week that there have recently been a number of claims that the city’s iconic ambassadors have been under the influence of alcohol while on the job.
An Italian news agency revealed that the president of the gondoliers' association, Nicola Falconi, is proposing a move to treat gondoliers the same as bus drivers and other transport operators in the city, by making them take breathalyser tests in order to ensure their sobriety.
After a string of complaints from tourists about grappa-guzzling gondoliers, the final straw was a viral video apparently showing a candidate for a job as a 'ganser' - the person who helps passengers to get in and out of gondolas - being made to strip and swim in a canal near famous St Mark's Square as part of the job interview.
With gondola tourism such a massive part of the Venetian economy, the claims have worried the authorities. Venice council is due to consider the proposals.