When in Venice, one must go for a gondola ride, right? That’s exactly what we did. Of course, it was the “tourist thing” to do but heck, I had to experience it. The gondolas are now mainly used by tourists. Venetians use water buses (vaporetto) or water taxis.
At first, I was a little apprehensive. I’ve heard many stories about Venice’s canals and how they can be pungent. I have a very sensitive nose and it didn’t bother me one bit. Yes, there certainly was a distinctive smell, but not unpleasant. Gondolas are narrow and wobbly! The last thing I wanted to happen was to fall into the canal. That would have been most embarrassing!
If you have heard that a gondola is asymmetrical, then you have heard correctly. The left side of the gondola is longer than the right side to compensate for it turning to the left. They are built in a very specific manner, using 280 pieces of different types of wood which include fir, oak, cherry, walnut, larch, elm and limetree.
There are approximately 400 licensed gondoliers in Venice. The limited number of licenses is dictated by the town council. This profession used to be handed down from father to son. Today, there is a rigorous program to train aspiring gondoliers which include classes and exams on Venetian history and at least one foreign language. Of course, the trainees must learn to master the unique rowing action and the network of canals. In August 2010, Giorgia Boscolo became the first female gondolier.
Here are some photos from our gondola ride.
Did you know about Venipedia? It’s a wiki based site dedicated to Venice! Here’s a list of references if you wish to read more on the history of the gondola:
- From Venipedia: http://venipedia.org/index.php?title=Gondola
- From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gondola
- From Avventure Bellissime: http://www.tours-italy.com/venice-about-gondola.htm