The gondolas of Venice are perhaps the world’s most beautiful boats.

They are typical of this city that is located in Italy’s northeast and are part of the romantic envision of many.

The workmanship and structures of the gondolas that today float in Venice’s canals have endured several changes over time. The boats followed the city’s transformations.

History

The story’s beginning goes back to the year of 1094, when Doge Vitale Faliero Dodoni, a member of the Venetian noble family, was the city’s man in charge. He gave to its inhabitants “gondulam”, so that they could sail the canals, whilst trying to calm down the population’s anger. His election took place amidst an uprising environment. Vitale assumed the power after the deposal of the previous Doge.

And so the first gondolas were born, which were quickly adopted by Venetian. Doge’s goal was to have peasants as their primary users, but actually only the wealthiest used this mean of transportation.

Over the years, Venice became a prosperous commercial city and the gondolas a prestigious mean of transportation. They were driven by two gondoliers and they were covered in order to have a protection against storms and snoopers.

Gondolas’ colors differed depending on their owners. It was a colored sea, an immense pageantry floating throughout Venice’s canals. But, in the year of 1633, the government ordered that all gondolas had to be black (except those of the government), only displaying a decorative element. The color black was a consequence of the tar, which provided the boats with a better waterproofing method.

In 1884, the gondola manufacturer Domenic Tramotin created one a model that was agiler and only needed a single gondolier. Having only a single maneuver rowing on gondola’s right side, it leaned to the opposite side. Tramotin then had the idea to bend the hull and shorten the right side to balance the row’s strength. The row started to work as a rudder. And this is a unique detail.

The gondola’s structure is then an asymmetric one, always leaning to the side. The bottom is flattened, which allows it to be navigated in shallow locations.

As the years moved on, it was updated and the cover ceased to exist, allowing a wider view from its users. The current gondola is the result of an agreement between the aesthetical criteria and navigability factors. It’s a unique vessel in the world.

Gondoliers

The gondoliers are also unique, with their beautiful striped shirts, a typical Venetian trademark. It’s a job that is usually passed from father to son, with a license being required to perform it, which is only issued 3 to 4 times a year.

Navigating a gondola is something associated with a really strong and old tradition. Perhaps that is why they have a specific dialect, with the first female gondolier only being licensed in 2010…

Visiting Venice and riding a gondola is more than a suggestion, it’s something mandatory. It’s a really extraordinary experience.

You should do it at night, when an aura of mysticism bears down on the city and its canals. Go through the turbulent Rialto but then ask the gondolier (who can be a woman!) to take you to lesser known canals. Ask him to sing. That’s something quite common there.

And suddenly you’re using a gondola in a canal where there is no one else. Only the mild sound coming from the row and the beautiful Italian music. It’s pure magic!

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