Venice is one of those super romantic places everyone should see once. Its beauty is improbable, well, all the city is improbable, How the hell did they think it was a good idea to build a city on water? However, Saint Mark’s square is one if the most fabulous in Italy and pigeons are only tollerable here and nowhere else. Nothing symbolizes more this picture-perfect Italian city as the gondola, this traditional Venetian rowing boat.
First gondolaswere born about 1500 years ago and by the 17th century there were more than ten thousand of them. They went through continuous changes during the centuries. While in the 13th century it was jhandled by a dozen oars, by the 15th century it became a lot smaller but had a cabin. As it was also a symbol of the wealthiness of the owner, by the 16th century thez started decorating it like there was no tomorrow, hence the city government needed to take action and made rules prohibiting no-sense ornaments.
Strict rules are in force ever since stating how a gonsola should look like. It is painted black and has only three decorations: the Ferro, the Risso and the Forcola. The ferro (meaning iron in Italian) is in fact a heavy metal piece at the vessels’ bow that acts as a counterweight to the gondolier who rows from the stern. The other metal piece, the risso, has only pure ornamental functions. Its whose design is influenced by the shape of a seahorse, and which sits near the gondolier at the stern. The forcola is an elaborately carved wooden rest holding the oar.
The design of the modern gondola has not changed since the 19th century, when the Tramontin-family monopolized the production. Theirs descendants run the activity ever since. In the 20th century the Venetian city council prohibited any further modifications of the gondola. A gondola wigths 350 kilos, is long 10,85 meters and is 1,4 meters wide. Its shape is assymetrical as its left side is 24 cms longer than the right side. It is made of lime, oak, mahogany, walnut, cherry, fir, larch and elm.
And where there is a gondola there is also a gondolier (oarsman). These sexy Venetians wearing striped- shirts and straw hats are standing facing the bow and rows. Today there are approximately 400 gondolas in Venice and you need to be a member of the guild to practice the profession of the gondolier. You also need to take severe exams not only on how good you are at oaring and handling the vessel, bnut also on how good you know the city, its landmarks, the culture, its history and foreign laguages. Don’t forget that taking the gondola is one of the favourite activities of tourists coming to Venice therefore no wonder that gondoliers need to be able to entertain them and act like some of a tour guide, too. In 2010 the first female gondolier managed to get the license.
How much it will cost you to take a ride? Fees start from 30 EUR for a 30 minutes ride. You can find more detailed information here.