Gondola in Venice Italy is a boat typical to the Venetian lagoon, and a great, legendary way to enjoy the Venetian canals on a holiday.
Until the advent of motorized vehicles, these Venetian boats were, for their maneuverability and speed, best suitable for transporting people in Venice, which features narrow canals and shallow bridges, all navigable with gondolas.
In terms of construction, the gondola is made of 280 pieces, from eight types of wood in the final product, with the construction usually taking over a year to complete.
The final gondola product is typically about 11 meters long with a characteristically asymmetric shape, with the left side larger than the right. Gondolas can be navigated with one to four Venetian oarsmen, standing and facing towards the bow.
PHOTO: Gondola’s with tourists in Venice.
The gondola’s asymmetry serves to simplify the management of the boat with a single oar.
However, the very strong asymmetry of the gondola in Venice Italy of today is a fairly recent introduction, as drawings from late nineteenth century show, that at the time, the form was only slightly asymmetric.
The typical iron bow is there to protect the gondola from collisions as well as for making the boat more aesthetically pleasing. The boat bow shape has traditionally represented the six districts of Venice, Giudecca, Doge’s hat, the Rialto Bridge, and finally, the “S” shape, starting from the highest point to the lowest point of the iron, is the Grand Canal.
Also, some of the more modern gondolas feature three finishes – with special embroidery – representing the three major islands of the Venetian lagoon: Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
Despite the boat’s considerable length, gondolas is extremely maneuverable, thanks to the flat bottom and the reduced portion of the immersed hull, and these boats are great in narrow spaces.
The gondola’s are steered by gondoliers, whose main skills include balance, as the gondolier’s position within the boat is very unstable. To avoid clashes with other gondoliers, there is the traditional custom of voicing a warning when turning into narrow canals.
Cabin (fèlze) gondolas, even though they were in vogue during the nineteenth century, are now almost non-existing.
In fact, the shape of the gondola in Venice Italy has changed progressively over time. Pictures of these boats from fifteenth and sixteenth centuries show considerably different shapes from the present gondolas, with shorter, wider, and less elongated shapes than at present, and especially without asymmetries.
The more modern day gondola shapes were invented towards 1600s and 1700s, when the length of the hull was extended, and individual iron cast features of the boats were enlarged.
During the nineteenth century, the stern and, to a lesser extent, the bow, were made to rise more to the surface of the water, improving the maneuverability of the gondola’s hull, and the length of which was finally settled around 11 meters.
This was also the period when an initial slight asymmetry was introduced to the boats (dramatically increased at the beginning of the twentieth century), again for reasons of maneuverability. Also, both the bow and the stern were raised further, and the hull slimmed down slightly, all to achieve the best balance for the gondolier.
Currently, the Venetian gondolas are almost exclusively open boats, but until the early years of the twentieth century, they were equipped with a removable cabin section.
This was time when Venice was a city with a much larger population, and the gondola was the best means of transport. The stays on board a gondola could be quite long, and with the harsh Venetian winter weather, a cabin coverage allowed a certain comfort and intimacy for the passenger.
In terms of color, the traditional black color of the boats comes from the materials to waterproof the hull, which was later made the official color by a decree by the Venetian Senate – in 1609 – in part to limit the excessive decorations of the gondolas, which were once covered with precious fabrics and gilded.
As noble families had one or more house gondolas which they used for business and for pleasure, these rides resulted in a special entertaining gondola musical genre, “Batelo”, which had its heyday in the eighteenth century, but which is still widely practiced for tourism.
The gondoliers’ guild has always been governed by a Venetian statute, and today, their boats are used mostly for tourism, but also for ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, as well as to ferry people from one bank of the Grand Canal to another.
PHOTO: A wedding gondola in Venice Italy carrying a Venetian bride.
For the transports within Grand Canal banks, the task uses particularly capacious gondolas, guided by two rowers, one aft and one forward. The custom is very old, with the earliest documents dating back to the middle of the fourteenth century.
Another modern use of the gondola in Venice Italy is for sport events, with dedicated racing boats in the Venetian tradition, such as the famous historical Venetian regatta. In these races, you can also see gondolas with reduced sizes, with two rowers.