In a bid to stop visitors tarnishing the city’s image, stewards are monitoring so-called uncouth behaviour. But is it a step too far?

A couple of resting tourists look baffled as they are shooed away from the steps of the portico that surrounds St Mark’s Square in Venice. They are the first victims of the so-called “angels of decorum”, a group of stewards who started monitoring the canal city’s most congested areas on Friday morning for signs of uncouth behaviour. It appears to be a somewhat futile task: in a city that brings in about 60,000 tourists a day, unwitting counterparts soon replace them.

Still, as lunchtime nears, the couple fare better than those who settle on the steps and commit a far worse infraction. “Sitting down is forbidden but sitting down and eating is doubly forbidden,” Issa Diop, who is on his fourth summer season as a steward, tells the Observer.

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