The Italian Almanac

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Calatrava's bridge in Venice

Over the Bridge

A foursome of twentysomethings drove over Venice's newest and most delicate bridge only to find police waiting for them when they returned to their car after a stroll. The two couples from nearby Jesolo, apparently tipsy after a night out, opted to take their car over the pedestrians-only Constitution bridge, built amid stability polemics by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in 2008, into the lagoon city.

The four young men and women parked in the first square available, Campo S.Geremia, and went for a walk. They were reportedly "surprised" to find fine-waving police awaiting them when they returned to the vehicle after their jaunt. Three of the four failed breathalyser tests. Police promised "drastic" measures against them.

In the wake of the incident, Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni on Tuesday pledged to prevent recurrences. "We'll make sure episodes like that don't happen again", he said. Hinting that barriers may be put up, Orsoni said a preliminary check-up had shown no damage to the delicate glass-and-steel structure. "It was a further test of the bridge's solidity" the mayor quipped.

Built amid polemics over cost overruns, stability concerns and initial lack of disabled access, the controversial fourth bridge over the Grand Canal was inaugurated without fanfare in September 2008 and has since been hit by vandals who have taken chunks out of it. Venice's first bridge in 70 years also came under fire when dozens of tourists wound up in casualty after tripping on the glass and stone steps.

Calatrava has described the work as his ''most beautiful bridge'' and ''an act of love for Venice and for Italian civilization in general''.