Gondola Venice Italy is a black boat with an oar, guided by a gondolier, historically used for transportation, but today available primarily for tourists.
The name of the boats, “gondola”, was for the first time mentioned in a decree by Doge Vital Faliero Doni in 1094, but the present appearance for the boat type with that name is primarily from the sixteenth century.
For example, the black color of the Gondolas comes from a decree of 1562, when the color was imposed to put an end to the ruinous competition between rich Venetians, who were ambitious to possess the most richly decorated gondola in the city.
Prior to these regulations, the gondolas were guided by two oarsmen and could not be distinguished from other Venetian boats except that they were used as a means of private transport of persons. In fact, until the beginning of World War II, the wealthy merchants of the city were the primary employers of gondoliers.
PHOTO: Gondola Venice Italy boats and gondoliers at Orseolo basin and Ponte del Cavalletto.
The types of gondola Venice Italy as of today are made out of 280 pieces of wood (from larch oak, walnut, cherry, lime, cedar and plywood), with two metal parts, located at the bow and stern.
The gondola boats are 10.8 meters (35 ft) long and 1.38 meters (4.5 ft) wide, and weighs 600 kg (1322 lbs).
Gondolas have been designed to be easily manageable, propelled forward by a single rower, who stands at left back, while rowing on the right side, where the asymmetry of the gondola, a modification introduced in the nineteenth century, makes the boat easier to navigate.
The unique wooden oar is normally made out of Indonesian wood, and measures 4.20 meters (13.78 ft) in length.
The oar is flat, not fixed to anything, allowing for a quick release of the boat. To row the boat, the gondoliers use morsi (“jaws”), eight rounded indentations, of which each has a purpose for a specific maneuver (forward, reverse, short turns, or turning on the spot).
The cavai (“horse”) ornaments, mid-length of the gondola at the armrests, are allegorical to seahorses and mermaids.
Originally, the “ferro di prua” (an Italian term for the figurehead of the gondola) was used to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier, but during the 17th century, it got a more precise symbolism.
PHOTO: A closeup of Gondola Venice Italy “ferro di prua”.
The six parallel horizontal bars of the fero prua symbolize the six Venetian sestieri (“districts”), with the final bar towards the opposite direction being allegorical to the island of Giudecca.
Curvature of the ferro di prua, in turn, symbolizes the Grand Canal. Finally, the space formed by the meeting of the top figure and the first bar represents Rialto Bridge, and it is always white.
The Venetian squeri (Italian for “shipyards”) build these gondolas, and currently, it takes about a month to build just one gondola, with a standard model prices starting at 20,000 euros (26,600 USD).
Today, the gondolas are primarily used by tourists to tour the city, with about 400 gondoliers left with a boating license, down from an estimated 10,000 gondoliers in the sixteenth century. During the gondola’s heydays in Venice, the gondoliers were a celebrated profession, where father transmitted the secrets and knowledge of the job to his son.
This system of inheritance disappeared in 1980, and today, the gondoliers are now selected on open competition, open to all. However, on the strict examination of the applicants, one must not only prove his knowledge of rowing, but also a seriousness for maintenance of the boat, and a courteous attitude towards visitors and customers. Knowledge of foreign languages is also a plus as of today.
Also, the profession is not all male, as in 2009, the first woman gondolier was authorized to conduct a gondola, operating out of Dorsoduro sestiere.
One of the ambitions of a modern gondolier is to participate in the annual Regata Storica championship, a five kilometer (3.1 mile) race, and one day win the competition, and belonging to a family that includes these winners is very important.
In addition to the gondolas, there is also a boat type called “gondolino”, which has been created and used exclusively for the Regatta Storico races. These boats, which made their first appearance at the regatta of 1825, are lighter and faster than the traditional gondola, but use similar shapes.
The gondolinos are 10.50 m (34.4 ft) long, 1.10 m (3.6 ft) wide and have a 0.65 m (2.1 ft) bottom width.