Souvenirs from Venice, Italy
The best way to experience the magnificent city of Venice is by taking a Gondola ride through its splendid landmarks: beautiful palaces, charming canals and picturesque bridges glitter along both sides of the Grand Canal to create one of the world’s most romantic landscapes. The Gondola, the traditional boat of Venice, is a symbol of the City’s 1,000 years of glamour and fame. Its exact origin is still debated but it is believed to have been created in the 11th century. It used to be brightly painted and decorated as a symbol of aristocracy’s power and wealth and it became the main mean of transportation in Venice. Today visitors are charmed by this elegant reminiscence of Venice’s glory times which fits the splendid City architecture and gondoliers’ old Italian folksongs: a resin fridge magnet is a reminder of this magical water journey.
Gondola, Venice’s Romantic Boat
Almost 10,000 Gondolas populated the waters of the City in the 16th and 17th centuries and they were usually owned by upper class Italians. In order to put a stop to the Gondola opulence competition, the Venice officials imposed a law in 1562 which forced all boats to be painted in black. Nowadays there are only 500 Gondolas left and instead the modern vaporetti is used for water transportation while the role of Gondolas is restricted to ferrying people over the Grand Canal (in the traghetti) or participating in spectacular gondoliers competitions (the regattas). The guild of gondoliers is a very selective one: only a few licenses are given after strict examinations which require a solid knowledge of Venice’s history and great rowing skills.
Venice, a Celebration of Water
Among Venice’s festivities celebrating the role of water in shaping the history of the City there is the notorious Regata Storica playing a tribute to the Renaissance style boats and to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus who gave up her throne in 1489 and moved to Venice. Despite being viewed as the City’s only transportation watercrafts, Renaissance maps suggest that the waters of Venice were filled by other types of traditional boats such as batellas and caorlinas. Only few of these have survived and are displayed during the parade of historical Venetian boats. A Gondola used to be owned by four people: three oarsmen and an administrator. Today it serves mainly tourism purposes and the Institution for the Protection and Conservation of Gondolas and Gondoliers is now in charge of its preservation and promotion.
An Old Boat for New Times
The design of the Gondola has developed throughout the centuries and the current shape of the boat was created by Tramontin. The City officials banned any amendments to its design in the middle of the 20th century. The gondolas were traditionally manufactured in local squeros, exclusive boat factories keeping the secret of the trade which were later regulated by strict Venetian laws. All Gondolas are handmade using eight different types of wood and almost 300 pieces with an interesting asymmetry of the sides to stop them from turning to the left due to row strokes. Today’s Gondolas weigh about 700 kg., have fixed measures and only three metal decorations: a curly tail, two seahorses and a prow. The activity of the Gondola itself is highly regulated: the typical Venetian gondolier wears black trousers, a striped shirt, rows with one hand only and despite popular beliefs, singing serenades is not on the job sheet. Up until the 20th century the Gondolas were equipped with small cabins for privacy and weather protection which were later replaced by awnings called tendalins.