Gondole, gondoliere, traghetti, Venice
Local legend says that Gondoliers are born with webbed feet which helps them walk on water. Of course, this is part of the mythology of Gondoliers; however, they do have intimate knowledge of the waterway's of Venice which is passed down from father to son.
As in the picture, the traditional dress of the Gondolier is the beribboned straw hat, the striped shirt, and the black trousers.
The Gondolier stands upright and pushes on his oar to row the gondola in the direction that he faces. His passengers sit on beautifully upholstered cushions and on low stools. His gondola is always black in color; (seven layers of black lacquer to give the glossy look); the ferror has metal teeth which symbolizes the six sestieri of Venice as are under the part that is in the shape of the Doge's cap.
The Gondola takes three months to build and costs 10,000 Euro or more. The woods that are used are walnut, oak, mahogany, lime, larch, fir, elm, cherry, and beech. These woods are then handcrafted into more than 280 separate pieces of wood!
So, when we gripe about the price of a ride on the gondola, it is good to know how expensive the boat and how expensive the upkeep of this beautiful, craft which is one of the oldest symbols of Venice.
When I saw this Gondolier, I tried waiting until he turned around, but finally gave up and took the picture from the back...I think I like it best this way..more natural.
Most gondolas have a black colour and are ornated with the so-called ferro in the front of the boat. This ferro is a contra weight for the gondolier, standing at the backside.
The metallic teeth symbolize the six sestieri of Venice. At special occasions the gondola is decorated with flowers. It was such a nice coincidence to see this bridal couple, using the traditional gondola as mean of transport at their wedding day.
This is what I I had been waiting for! Carol and I had purposefully kept our vacation schedule loose. Aside from hotel reservations we really didn't have to be anywhere at any given time...that is, except for 10:30 AM Tuesday morning in Venice.
I love trip planning and research...what can I say, I've been called the Gray Geek more than once. In the lead up to our trip to Italy I came across a fantastic site (other than VT's of course) called the Venice Blog. Wonderful insights not easily found. It was here I discovered the American Gondola Builder in Venice. In 1996 Thom Price received a Watson Foundation grant to go to Venice and learn how to build gondolas. At the end of his grant he decided to stay in Venice and the rest, as they say, is history.
Turns out that it's not very easy to actually watch a gondola being built as the local boat builders are not quite as welcoming as the local glass blowers. Thom Price on the other hand was willing to open his squero or boat building workshop for occasional tours. Now, I have been a woodworker all my life building furniture, musical instruments and even a spiral staircase, but this was something else. The opportunity to see a gondola in its skeletal form, to observe firsthand techniques developed over centuries by master boat builders and to meet a young man who followed his dream as unlikely as it may have seemed...this was not be missed.
The Italians get through the city in their gondolas and boats to get to work or by foot.
This is very popular with tourist also to ride the canal by gondolas.
I think gondola rides in the canal is very romantic, maybe next time I go there, I will get that chance.
There are few surving gondola workshops in Venice. The Squero di San Trovaso is one of them. It is not open to the public, but we passed it numerous times and saw gondolas being worked on outside all the time across the canal.
Official Gondola Site: http://www.gondolavenezia.it/