Mamma Mia! Melanie Sykes flew to Italy’s City of Love… and took a punt on a gondolier more than half her age.
The TV host, 50, was on holiday in Venice with a pal – but as our snaps show, she was also busy building bridges with Riccardo Simionato, 23.
Former model and mum-of-two Mel is believed to have fallen for Riccardo after he wowed her with some oar-some strokes during a trip on his gondola last Sunday.
And less than 24 hours later, the pair were pictured kissing.
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Former Boddingtons babe Mel posted a photo of a ride with Riccardo saying she was “just a bit giddy”.
But the holiday romance came to an end on Thursday when Riccardo wheeled Mel’s suitcase on to a water taxi.
He kept his arm around her as they travelled to Marco Polo Airport before waving goodbye.
A hotel worker said: “They seemed to be completely smitten.
“You could tell she was older than him but she looks incredible and it was no surprise to see a younger man with her.
“They made for a very handsome couple.”
When the Sunday Mirror tracked down Riccardo, he was singing to attract customers.
At first, he claimed he did not know who Mel was, saying: “I don’t remember. I meet a lot of people in this job.”
But he soon changed his tune, admitting: “I first met her as a client but I can’t talk about it.”
Blushing Riccardo refused to kiss and tell.
Asked if he prefers English women to locals, he replied: “Every person is different. Nationality doesn’t matter. True, no?”
The former chef laughed when asked if he always goes for older women and he refused to say if Mel is a similar age to his mother, who he still lives with.
Yesterday, Mel was back home in Britain with her sons Roman, 18, and Valentino, 16, from her first marriage to actor Daniel Caltagirone, who is of Italian descent.
Meanwhile, Riccardo, known as Ricky, was 975 miles away looking for new customers for his €80 (£72), 30-minute rides.
Locals say he regularly attracts the attention of female tourists.
He has also posted a string of glamorous pictures of himself, including one wearing only a tiny pair of trunks.
His most recent Instagram selfie was posted on Thursday – with a winking emoji and the words: “It’s all so f*****g ridiculous.”
A fellow gondolier wrote: “Satisfied boy.”
A barista who saw Riccardo and Mel kissing in the Campo dei Frari square said: “I didn’t realise how much older she was.
“Ricky’s father is also a gondolier – she is more the right age for him!
“All of the second generation gondoliers are like Latin lovers.
“They get a lot of attention from the women tourists, especially Ricky.
“But I’ve never seen him kissing one of them before.
“He’s a good boy. He is very charming and knows how to win the ladies over with his patter.”
Mel has been upfront about dating younger lovers. She said: “Younger men are often attracted to me and very open with me.
“Men of my age tend to have shut down in some way.
“Younger men don’t seem to have that reservation about approaching a strong woman.
“Older men find my independence a threat.”
She has also revealed she is not so attracted to homegrown lovers.
She said: “I feel a bit sorry for British men, who have adopted the limited vocabulary of the television character Keith Lemon when talking about, and to, women…
“It would be a miracle if any of these men are actually getting laid.”
During her jaunt in Venice, Mel told fans online: “I will be back.”
But Riccardo says he has not had any messages since she left the City of Canals.
And when he was asked if it was over, he replied: “Over.”
Although it looks like Mel might be gondola but not forgotten…
Her ex files
Mel has had a string of young lovers since she and Daniel divorced in 2009.
Roofer Jack Cockings, 16 years her junior, became her second husband in 2013 but they split eight months later.
She reportedly dated pop star Olly Murs, who is 14 years younger, and was linked to German golfer Martin Kaymer, 15 years her junior. Other star dates include Bros singer Matt Goss, 52, TV presenter Jamie Theakston, 49, and comic Steve Coogan, 55.
Mel found fame in the 90s in the Boddingtons beer ads and has hosted a variety of TV shows. She came third in I’m a Celeb in 2014.
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