19 March 2011

The Menace From Venice [Italy]

Having spoken to a few experienced couch surfers, it usually it takes quite a while before you have your first bad experience. Well, not me. I am currently lying on a pull out mattress in a crazy mans kitchen. Tomorrow I get to migrate to the hallway.

It is my fault, really. I told Jean-Marc who I planned to stay with in Venice. He had heard of the guy and warned me against it. I thought, ahh, it can't be all that bad. And even when my host messaged me to ask if I would 'wrestle' (not against him, but another couch surfer) alarm bells should have rung. But the guy has about 400 positive references... Surely they aren't all liars?

So he picks me up from the station at 9pm, the conversation in the car was fine, he told me about his wrestling and why he does it and all about his couch surfing experience. After speaking to the guy for about 15 minutes I came to one conclusion; he has some very strong opinions. And some of those opinions are not entirely PC. Think along the sexist, racist lines.

We got back to his place, to find my accommodation for the evening would be the kitchen. The following night when a German couple were also coming to stay - I was going to be moved to the hallway. Right-o, a bed is a bed I guess. But I think the most disturbing part was when he decided to get changed... right in front of me. Thank god he stopped stripping when he got to his y-fronts.

Conversation that evening started off OK, but quickly became strained. He has such strong opinions, and just continues to talk I can hardly get a word in. And there is no point when I do, because he just dismisses my opinion anyway. One interesting thing we discussed was cities in Europe, and how he believed there were only a few worth visiting. Funnily enough, most of them are here in Italy. He also has some very strong opinions (negative stereotypes) about people from different countries around Europe. And told me about how people who don't want to wrestle are gay. Nice...

Later I took a look at the trains leaving for Genoa on Thursday. They were all €50, apart from one leaving at 11:30am, which was €20. I ran that past him and there was no way he was having that! As there would not be enough time to wrestle. I was made to feel that I had to stay until 2pm, and that I had to wrestle, otherwise he would have kicked me out then and there. He went through an whole hour long schpeel about contributing and sharing experiences with Couch Surfing, and what it is all about. He told me about all the people he has hosted, and that people recommend him from all over the world, that he is 'famous', and people love to stay with him. This guy may have hosted hundreds of people, but I don't think he embodies the spirit of Couch Surfing. It seems to me he just wants to watch people wrestle (did I mention he films it?). He tries to mask it with 'contributing and sharing experiences', but he is totally inflexible; you don't wrestle, you cannot stay. It makes no sense to me as Couch Surfing is not about wrestling. Why does he want to watch people wrestle so bad? A sexual thing? Let's hope not.

I was polite at first, but my tolerance was wearing thin. It got to the point where I was just sitting there, not smiling, not saying a word, just staring into space. And when he would say "you know?", I would nod my head and say "mmmm". That is all he needed to spur him on to continue talking absolute rubbish.

I finally had to cut him off and say I am really tired and I need to go to bed. So I did. And here I am. I am not toooo concerned, though. I basically have to fit in with his work schedule. When he is at home, I am at home (WRESTLING!). When he is out, I am out. Tomorrow he works in the afternoon, so tomorrow morning is going to be weird. I plan on spending a lot of time faffing about getting ready and being in the shower etc. Then we come back for 9pm. At which time I'm meant to get my wrestle on with some dude. Wednesday he is working early so we have to leave the house by 7am. I can come back for a two hour 'nap' from 2-4pm, then I have to leave again until 9:30pm at night because he has a dinner to go to. Then it is wrestle time again. Thursday morning is wrestle-mania 2011 until 2pm, when I am allowed to go and get my train. I cannot wait... I actually did think staying with this guy might be a little strange, but that it would make a good story to tell. In no way did I think he would be this crazy. But hey, I'll stick with it for the sake of your entertainment and my budget...

I continue this post on the train to La Spezia. Yes, I was meant to be heading to Genoa right now, but my host pulled out at the last minute so I had to change my plans. La Spezia is closer to Cinque Terre anyway.

It has been an interesting few days. I will start where I left off... Tuesday morning the German couple (Simon and Julia) arrived at about 9:30am. We all sat in the kitchen for a couple of hours that morning chatting. Well, I didn't really chat, our host just talked at Simon and Julia about his worldly opinions. The exact same thing I had already heard for hours the night before. Now this is just my point of view - but at first they seemed happy to participate in the conversation. After a short time the conversation became a bit strained. Simon was more determined to defend his opinion than I was, and our host really did not like that. He even told Simon directly that he makes him feel uncomfortable. I think what he really wanted was for people to accept and agree with everything that comes out of his mouth, and never challenge it. Afterward our host even came to me and had a bitch session about Simon. WTF dude?

Anyway, enough of that. Tuesday afternoon Julia, Simon and I ventured out into Venice for the first time. It was overcast, grey and some light rain, not amazing tourist weather. I realised on the bus into Venice that I had forgotten my camera! But I wasn't too worried because the weather was so shitty anyway.

Venice is amazing. Beautiful. Like nothing else I have ever seen. Think of your normal European city, but replace the roads with water. There are no cars, no motorbikes, no bicycles, just boats. There are footpaths everywhere, but they form a maze, and getting from A to B can be very difficult. You run into canals, dead ends, or paths that turn and head in the wrong direction. I good map or GPS is a must.

We made our way to St Marco Square, the main square in Venice, which contains the Doge Palace and St Mark's Basilica, both spectacular buildings. While Gondolas are all over the city, the waterways surrounding St Marco Square are especially full of gondoliers vying for your business. Although Venice is so famous for its gondolas, I was not overly concerned if I took a ride on one or not. And after finding out it was going to cost about €70, I quickly decided it was not for me. I'm not sure why, but I had this romantic idea of the gondola - a smiling friendly gondolier, singing in Italian as you gently cruise through the canals. The reality is a little different - the gondolier are ruthless, angry people who are after one thing - your money.

We spend the rest of the afternoon just wandering around the city, alongside the canals, before returning home for the evening. After being home for about 10 minutes it was tiiime to ruuumbleeeeee! Our host gave us the basic idea before letting us go for it. He wanted to see where we were at before he gave us any instruction. Just a quick aside - usually the surfers are matched up on weight and height to give an even match. Simon had about a foot and a half, and 15kg on me. Not exactly a fair fight. Anyway, we were hopeless. Scrambling around. I was laughing, having fun with it, which annoyed our host no end. I was not taking it seriously. Which is strange because he kept telling us earlier that it was just for fun... So he gave us a couple of hints and let us go at it again. Somehow during this second bout Simon's elbow connected with my forehead, immediately coming up in a HUGE lump and purple bruise. Apparently nothing like this had ever happened before! What pissed me off was that our host actually said that it happened because I wasn't taking it seriously. What the f? So that was the end of that. I said I wouldn't be doing any more wrestling.

So I was pretty happy, I could now take the earlier (cheaper) train to Genoa. I jumped on the net that evening to book the train, but found an email from my host - their plans had changed. They were no longer going to be in Genoa over those days. Leaving me high and dry. So I decided to go to La Spezia instead, which is actually closer to Cinque Terre. I put a message up in the La Spezia group on Couch Surfing asking if anyone could host me at the last minute.

Wednesday was a 6am start, as our host had work early. Problem - it was p*ssing down. But we just had to deal with it. So we made our way in to Venice again. The first few hours of the day were spent wandering around trying to find a hostel for Simon and Julia for Thursday and Friday night, but no luck. I remember my camera, so was trying to capture some photos, but the rain was making things very difficult. Later we made our way to the Doge palace in St Marco Square. The Doge was basically the mayor of Venice, a pretty important guy. The palace was extremely lavish, full of intricate carvings and huge paintings. It actually contains the largest canvas painting in the world! Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside, but I managed a couple of sneeky ones.


That afternoon we visited the Museo Correr. It was quite cool, full of old Italian artefacts, maps and paintings. Again, no photos. I was only able to stay about 30 minutes, as I had to be back at home by 2:30pm. Simon and Julia decided to stay in town. I made my way back, had a much needed two hour nap, then went back into the city. At 6:30pm that night I met up with a couple of other Couch Surfers in Venice - one NZ guy (Daniel) and an Italian (Marco) that was living just outside Venice. Marco was nice enough to give us a tour of Venice - giving us a bit of history and plenty of interesting stories. He took us for a spritz, which is a typical Venetian drink, and showed us the university district. Even though the rain had started to ease, it was still a pain to try and take photos, so I only got a few, below.

Venice is actually slowly sinking, and after heavy rain it often floods at high tide. The later it got, the higher the canals became, until the water finally came up and over the banks. It was quite a crazy thing to literally watch the city slowly going under water. Marco told us that when the tide reached its highest point that evening, some places in the city would be covered by 30cm of water! The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful. Daniel is actually heading down Italy also, so we exchanged details and made some plans to hook up in a few days time.

This morning I woke to beautiful sunshine. The day that I would be spending most of my time on the train... figures. I checked my mail and nothing had come through on my Couch Surfing request in La Spezia, so I looked to book a hostel. I thought that as it was not a huge tourist destination and it was only a Thursday it would not be a problem. I was wrong. The few hostels in La Spezia were all booked up. So I spent the next 30 minutes desperately trying to find something. I finally found one outside of La Spezia, which is a bit of a mission to get to, but it is better than spending the night at the railway station.

So I plan to check out Cinque Terre tomorrow - which my friend Phillipa insisted I visit. And from there Pisa and Florence. The journey continues...


  1. jeeez, you're brave to have stayed with that weirdo! I probably would have freaked out and left. I'm glad it ended up working out for you, at least it made a good story!

    Oh and a lot of the times, I found that even when hostels say they're booked online, sometimes if you show up in person on the day you arrive, they'll have a cancellation or something and a place will be free. It's not a guarantee, but I'd say I did that two or three times and it worked out. So if you're ever stranded, maybe try that?

    I miss Venice so much. There's really no place like it. Look forward to hearing more of your stories!

  2. Oh my god. I fear for you and your asshole and I seriously hope this doesn't get all sexual and you get raped?? I mean, I'm actually going to pray for you not getting raped. Like, do you need hotel money? I will totally Paypal you hotel money if you need it!! Good lord friend!! :) But you're right. This is actually hilarious and it confirms we can probably never travel together. Mostly becuase crazy shit happens to me when I travel and we can't be having crazy stuff happening to more than one person on any trip. :) HAHA!!!

  3. See! SEE! I told you he was a fruitcake, but did you listen to me? NoooOOOoooo...

  4. I had the exact same experience with this guy in 2007, only I was the only one who stayed with him. Funny he was calling people who don't want to wrestle gay, as he told me how he walked in on two surfers who were there the week before who decided they were going to wrestle each other naked, and then they ejaculated on each other ("It was just crazy, man!"). Strange, because he never seems to let people stay at his place when he's not there. Did he you about how it's OK to get an erection while you're wrestling "because it's animal instinct, close to sex" ?

    He also declined to take me to a club because I said no after he asked me if I felt like masturbating.

    Then there was the time he flew off his futon after bedtime and made me wrestle him in total darkness ("It's the ultimate animal feeling!")

    He also wouldn't let me leave early...I wanted out the first night I was there...or he would give me a bad review, because he's had bad experiences with Americans and took a chance on me, after all, and all that.

    Is his shower still broken?

    Needless to say, I would never recommend this guy to anyone.

    ~ Will K.

  5. @Will K - damn, I'm speechless. I think he has mellowed over time, because what you are describing is just plain disturbing...

  6. He has contacted me by mail, seeing my open request for Venice, and all alarm bells should have rung (for example when he mentioned he set up a new profile but ahs hosted hundreds of people before on his old one).
    I fell for it, though, I couldn't resist the central location he offered. I wouldn't admit that, had you not accepted to be hosted by him, too :D
    Thanks god I found this blog entry, it's actually quite difficult to find anything for "wrestling venice couchsurfing". You're helping me a lot, cause now I won't find it difficult to make some weak excuse for not coming anymore.
    Or should I try to find out whether he has mellowed a little more...?
    —Greetings from Germany

  7. My girlfriend and I were hosted by Massimo in December of 2010 and it's pretty much exactly how you described it. We actually slept in that same kitchen. The racial and sexist things he said was pretty awful. He told my girlfriend to "stay in the kitchen and cook something while me and the other guy were wrestling." The pictures and videos were a little much. i remember one night though everyone drank a bunch of rum and he just forced us to stay awake and listen to him go on and on about how awesome he was and he would talk about every person that stayed with him and make us look at his couchsuring profile and say oh this guy was "fucking gay." He was the worst person I have ever met. You know he said he did security stuff thats why he was so smart about stereotyping people from different countries and states in the usa. His job was really just working at the airport security. I actually tried to find him again after reading this. Does he have a new profile on couchsurfing? Could someone copy the link?

    Anyways this guy has always been the bad experience if someone asks if i had a crazy experience on couchsurfing.

  8. This is his new profile. aecibidabada@hotmail.itpurini

  9. Massimo Bellemo is his name, and he is a predator.

  10. you're really a bad boy Will Klusener or something like this. You are officially gay on your profile, how can you report about this??? boh, by stupid americans and simil british, everything is possible. Another culture, nothing to do with latin people, thanx God

  11. Just few lines in this rubbish blog, full of tasty infos about a stay at Massimo's, so just ONE direction accusations, totally negative and misleaded, written not casually by 3 americans, 2 germans (just a better photocopy of americans) and an introverted and failed new zealander, pissed-off because he remained itiotically injured during his awkward attempt of wrestling.

    A book about Couchsurfing Massimo experiences is going to be ready in short, then, another big work to translate it in english Language.

    There are specific pages about each of you, everything will be visible to everybody.

    "Will K." responds at the name of Will Klusener, an official Gay with the "tourette Syndrome", who belong at the Queer Cs Group and who left a fabulous reference for Massimo, but who now, as Anonymous, he dares writing unbelievable things who really shock whoever are here reading.
    He's american :))

    Then there is another american-couple who write something here. Their names are KEVIN DEAN and ALLYSON Shit..... and they changed with great ability their Anonymous version.
    Allyson had been asked to wash dishes and NOT to cook something, since the american-couple pretended a huge breakfast (free of charge, of course) and they had used so many dishes.

    Kevin reported in a really false and misleading was what in reality he knew perfectly.

    Guys had to wrestl in peace and without the anxious look of a girlfriend for obvious reasons and not for misleading reasons, like you have the attitude to wanna show here.
    Americans have a real obsession about phisycal contacts, they' re not usual to hug each other among friends and this generate in them comprehensible frustrations that latin people of course don' t have and who are obviousaly totally absent on this blog.
    Even in USA, during the judo or wrestling-classes, parents remain outside, for not influence their kids with their worries and emotions.
    The attempt of KEVIN DEAN from Colorado to wanna show something different is pathetic and perfectling according with his nationality.
    Kevin Dean and girlfriend had left a Positive reference, at first, but they changed in Negative, as soon as Massimo left them a Neutral one.
    They did so many awkward mistakes during their stay and the other guests from Finland and another guy from NYC and a greek girl couldn' t stand them.
    Their reference has been the first Negative reference received by Massimo, who learned very quickly how americans can easy change a reference from Positive to Negative in the space of just few hours.

    Only americans showed not to have understood that Wrestling-stuff is exactly the condition to be hosted by Massimo, for the simple reason that he wanted to share his passion with people up to learn it, reason for each everyone were asked for that since the beginning.

    To report here that it was a strange and surprising condition is just appropriate with the american falsity standards.

  12. - 2nd part of the comment -

    No comments about the german-couple, germans are rarely hosted in Italy, you can check yourself.

    For Your information, Massimo has been classified in the "CS Top10", he practiced more than 30 years of judo and BJJ, he's regularly married and with kids and has never been reported for sexual abuses or similar american attempts of gossipping.
    He hosted almost 900 guests and before to be kicked-out by the american CS-Management (the new version team, because the old and autentic CS has left)..
    A stay at Massimo has been Always made of several things: Wrestling-time, international dinners, breakfast all together, good conversation, visiting not touristic Venice by night and other stuff.

    For your information, Massimo is still hosting regularly, even without profile. Many wrestling-guests are regularly sent to him by Others from the local community and by his large friends-networks from the CS-communities of Milan, Florence, Rome, Palermo aso.

    Still for your information, americans are no way hosted in Italy at the moment (you are free to verify by yourself) with obvious exceptions. Exist Always new couchsurfers who didn' t know him and whoever else wanna host anyway, so far away of the most tourstic towns, reason for which, Couchsurfing didn' t do a good deal towards the american couchsurfers (really so many) if this wanted to be its purpose.

    Americans dont find couch not only in Italy but also over our borders, again check by yourself if you don' t believe in.
    Massimo had hosted 185 americans, so no specific preclusions from his side.

    This informations didn' t mean to change minds that don' t want to be changed at all, but just a refreshing note was necessary.

    Giac, a good friend

  13. Hi Thank god I changed upon your blog before I actually went ahead to accept this weird dudes offer. The only reason I see why I should accept his couch is because of the lack of host in Venice as well as the sky high hostel fees. Weird crazy racist guy. Here's an extract of what he emailed me:

    Hello there, here is the point.

    Oriental people don't find easy couch in Europe, cause they're generally too boring, compared with the european standards.

    "It's a quite long story, no time now, but...

    To be my guest is intriguing as well but much more difficult to find a couch
    available at me, since the most easy going people wanna have a "crazy" couch.

    As judo-trainer, and according with the sharing CS spirit, I'm usual to teach
    my most dinamyc and laid back guests to learn and play easy Wrestling for fun 
    against others international guests, in order to leave them smart,
    unconventional and unforgettable memories and to verify if they' re only
    interested to find a free couch or also to collect different life experiences.
    IF you and your friend would d be up to learn and play some wrestling vs. others couchsurfers, let
    me know and let me know Your weight, in order to accept others couchsurfers,
    similar of you"
    If you are just another gay-couple who try to do their own bussines
    and avoid the hotel, No, thank you.

    Write back super-soon before I accept someone else.


    1. at least this guy has been honest and for what we know, he hosted also many gays. I would search the reason of your post in your frustration to admit that he got the point and you were just a couple of coward, probably..

    2. Hey Neal,
      I was just hosting a girl from Venice the last days and told her about our Massimo expericence - so she really wanted to learn more about this guy. I googled it and stumbled upon your blog! Nice to read this story, and my roommates were just amazed of how everything was exactly as I told. Hope you are alright, what are you doing at the moment? Keep on sharing!

  14. the only difference is that Massimo is an italian, alive and kicking and still going on with different profiles, while You, handycapped german with your bitchy girlfriend, are dead since quite long and there's no trace of you, hosted by someone else, on your profile. Since americans and germans are the most hated guests and Couchsurfing is totally useless for them.

  15. And this is the Positive reference left by WILL KLUSENER, the same disturbed guy who has written a negative report about Massimo, just few comments above:

    From Will Klusener
    Pittsburg, United States
    Jul 10, 2008 Met in person

    Massimo's goal is that you will never forget your stay with him. In my case, he succeeded. There were no other guests for me to wrestle, so I wrestled Massimo. I think I did quite well for never having wrestled before.
    He picked me up for the train station and showed me how to get around in Venice. He also took me our for a nice meal in Mestre, and showed me the square. If you're up for something new and want to learn about yourself, then Massimo is your man!

  16. Haha, looking at the bad English and the harsh judgemental tone, I'm sure a few of the comments above are written by Massimo himself, pretending to be someone else!
    I had the misfortune of being hosted by him as well, boy I haven't met anyone as mentally disturbed as him. CS has been deleting the many profiles that he has, but the jobless idiot he is he keeps creating new ones with fake names.


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