She is surely not the first vacationer to love herself with a gondolier in the romantic city of Venice. But then, Melanie Sykes is no ordinary tourist.
Not only that, at 50, she is more than twice the age of the handsome boatman she was photographed kissing passionately, wrapping her arms around her neck as he clung tightly to her cut.
Little surprise as the TV and radio presenter, who rose to fame in the 1990s as the bitter face of Boddingtons, told her online subscribers she was feeling “a little dizzy.”
As our exclusive footage shows, it wasn’t an impulsive melee. Ms Sykes and handsome Riccardo Simionato, 23, who still lives with her parents, then enjoyed a six-day adventure in the floating city.
It must be said, however, that the twice divorced Ms Sykes, who has two sons aged 18 and 16, looks much younger than her age. As the valiant gondolier, who refused to discuss their appearance, noted himself: “Beauty is relative.
Manchester-born Ms Sykes was in Venice for a mini-break with a friend and first posted a photo of herself getting banged along a canal while forcing Riccardo last Saturday.
Saturday: On her first day in Venice, and Melanie Sykes, 50, head straight for the gondolas, where she met her vacation romance Riccardo Simionato
The pictured embrace took place less than 48 hours later on Monday, and the next day she was seen enjoying an al fresco breakfast with the gondolier in the intimate plaza of Campo San Toma.
The next morning, Riccardo abandons his gondola and joins Ms. Sykes for a sightseeing boat trip along the Grand Canal.
Riccardo was shy about his relationship with the former Big Breakfast star. Responding aboard his gondola, he smiled broadly as he told The Mail on Sunday: “I don’t remember. I meet lots of people. ‘
Pushed further, Riccardo, who was not born when Ms. Sykes rose to fame, acknowledged the 27-year age gap but added, “Beauty is relative. Maybe what’s beautiful to you isn’t beautiful to me.
Monday: The couple met and shared a passionate kiss two days after they were first seen together
Tuesday: The next day, Melanie was seen having breakfast al fresco with the gondolier in the intimate Campo San Toma plaza
He stayed with Ms Sykes until Thursday, the last day of her vacation, where they were pictured arm in arm under an umbrella.
Riccardo took Ms Sykes’ suitcase on a water taxi which took them both to the city’s Marco Polo airport, where he waved her away as she made her way to passport control.
When asked if he prefers English women, Mr Simionato replied: “Every person is different, nationality doesn’t matter. Its true no?
But he growled when asked if he was planning to see Ms. Sykes again. For her part, Ms. Sykes posted a tantalizing photo on social media of the famous Rialto Bridge with the caption: “Ciao for now”.
A former chef who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a gondolier three years ago, Riccardo earns € 80 (£ 72) for every half hour on the boat.
Tuesday: Mélanie is clearly delighted as they plan to meet later in the evening
Wednesday: The gondolier spent Wednesday, his day off, back on the water, taking a boat ride with Mélanie
Ms. Sykes’ wedding ring is in line with her penchant for younger men. “Men my age tend to have closed their doors in one way or another, or they’re not as confident,” she said three years ago.
“One of the reasons I think I find myself [younger men] it’s because they don’t seem to have a problem approaching me. They have a little more on them and they are more confident and I need someone I can trust.
Ms Sykes became known for pulling pints from an ice cream van in commercials for Boddingtons beer in 1996.
Coincidentally, a later Boddingtons advertisement, this time featuring actress Anna Chancellor, showed two Venetian gondolas drifting down a Manchester canal, where beer is made.
Thursday: The two could not hold hands as they walked through the rainy streets. Then Mel posted this (right), suggesting she would be back
Ms Sykes went on to host a number of TV shows, including ITV’s Today With Des and Mel, with Channel 4’s Des O’Connor and The Big Breakfast.
She also finished third in I’m A Celebrity in 2014 and co-hosted a Radio 2 show with comedian Alan Carr, as well as her own show on Capital Radio.
After the breakdown of her first marriage to actor Daniel Caltagirone, Ms Sykes embarked on a whirlwind romance with Jack Cockings, a roofer, whom she met on Twitter. Aged 28 at the time, he was 16 years younger.
They married in 2013, but she filed for divorce after just seven months of marriage, later admitting that she had married “the wrong person.”
She was then briefly linked with singer Olly Murs, 14 her junior, and German golfer Martin Kaymer, 15 years younger, before dating comedian Steve Coogan, 55, for six months last year.