the gondola, history and curiosity

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Always defined as a romantic city par excellence, Venice welcomes you to its lagoon to discover its extraordinary architecture. Built directly on the water, instead streets, we find its characteristic canals and bridges that historically connect the different neighborhoods (in italian called Sestieri) of the city. Once you arrive in Venice you cannot miss the experience of the coveted gondola tour… a charming way to relax while enjoying the colours, lights and monuments of the city. The gondola is synonymous with Venice, a bit like pizza in Naples, but few people know that the gondola really carries the symbol of the city, an undisputed protagonist as emblematic as it is mysterious in its origins.

The history and its symbolic value

Not many people know that at the beginning this particular type of boat was different from the one we can admire today, changing over time just like the city it is associated with. In the past, the gondola used more and more for private transport of representation, is considered one of the most beautiful and elegant boats of all time, and still today unique techniques are used for its construction. Each family, regardless of prestige, had its own gondolas and its own gondoliers in charge of transporting the masters and their families between the canals and from one palace to another. With a production time of more than a year and a length of about 11 meters, has an asymmetrical shape with the left side wider than the right, which facilitates the gondolier to conduct with a single long oar. The one that stands out the most is the bow-iron, that sort of comb, which was born mainly with the function of balancing the weight of the gondolier. But that’s not all, here I want to reveal to you what meanings this not at all random shape represents:

  • The “S” shape follows the course of the Grand Canal;
  • The six teeth facing forward correspond to the geographical subdivision of the city of Venice into six sestieri (San Marco, Castello, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce and San Polo);
  • The tooth facing inward is the island of Giudecca;
  • The small arch above the last tooth is the Rialto Bridge;
  • The upper end symbolises the Doge’s hat.
Moreover, the traditional black colour of the boat is originally due to the usual use of pitch as a waterproofing agent for the hull (used for all Venetian and lagoon boats) and , later, extended with the intention of limiting the excessive pomp in the decoration of the gondolas, since in ancient times they were covered with precious fabrics and gilding.

The gondolier’s job

With the rise of the gondola, gondoliers became an integral part of the city’s social complex. This figure has undergone many changes over time. Let’s see what the differences are… First, the gondolier who was under the service of the nobles, knew all the secrets and scandals of the noblest houses, since they had a relationship of confidence with their masters, deepened during their boat journeys from one place to another. Today, it is possible to count over 600 gondoliers, in the collective imagination they are represented by gentlemen dressed in a striped shirt, black trousers and a straw hat…moreover, since they have to attend training schools to obtain their gondolier’s license, they are much more educated than the older generations and are able to tell their passengers, during the gondola ride, the history of Venice and the characteristics of its monuments even in a foreign language. In this regard, the gondoliers have become real tour operators and costumed figures; unlike what you might think, if before it was a profession handed down from father to son, today among the Venetians is coveted especially by young people.

A gondola ride

Venice is a fantastic city, one of a kind…every time fo the year is good to visit it, although there are days of greater tourist affluence such as the Carnival or the Historical Regatta, this will not prevent you from living the full charm of the Serenissima. With its many attractions and places to visit such as the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square with its bell tower, museums and markets, what you can only do there, is a gondola ride. There are currently about 500 gondoliers plying the waters of the Venetian lagoon.

It is no coincidence that the gondola, thanks to its romantic appearance, is the preferred boat for tourists who decide to get married in Venice. Depending on your intentions, you can decide whether to book shared tour or private tour, with a tome frame that can vary from 30 minutes to an hour. I mean, it’s only up to you to choose… The most recurring itinerary that will allow you to enjoy the marvellous Venetian architecture, navigating the Grand Canal, includes numerous stops such as the passage in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, the Gran Teatro La Fenice and, continuing, you will see the current Guggenheim Museum. You will also pass under the most famous bridges, including the Rialto Bridge. Thanks to the gondola tour, you will be able to capture the most beautiful shots of your day in a completely relaxed way, with the facades of magnificent buildings running in the background. If you are wondering how much a gondola ride costs, well, as I’ve already mentioned, depending on your preference prices can vary between 40 and 100 euros. But, whichever way you choose, I recommend, before ending your stay in the charming Venice, to experience the magic of a gondola ride.

mariagrazia youknow

Maria Grazia Funel

Born in 1989
Coming from Southern Italy, I cannot help but love the sea and, more generally, everything about travels and new places to discover. My perfect day? A beach, at sunset, in good company, with a nice bottle of wine!