16 June 2014

Go Gondola

If you close your eyes and think of Venice
 one of the first iconic images that is likely to float
 through your mind is the gondola and its trusty gondolier.

In the 1490's gondolas appeared in paintings 
by Bellini and Carpaccio,
 looking much the same as they do today.

In the 17th and 18th centuries there were between 
8,000 - 10,000 gondolas. 
Today there are just 400.

Being a gondolier is considered a noble profession
 and is controlled by a thousand year old guild
 called the Institution for the Protection and Conservation
 of Gondolas and Gondoliers.

There are only a limited number 
of 425 licenses issued and apprenticeships
 offered involving over 400 hours of training in
extensive navigational knowledge of the 150 canals
  as well as the history and sights of Venice 
and foreign language skills.

It is incredibly demanding physically, but is still
 one of the most sought after jobs in Venice.

Some more musically talented gondoliers 
will even sing for their passengers
 - for a fee of course!

Gondoliers must be Venetian by birth 
and were always male until 2010 when the 
first woman was accepted into the guild.
When a gondolier dies the license passes to his widow
 who then decides who shall continue on. 

These flat bottomed rowing boats are ideal for the conditions
 of the Venetian canals.
Contrary to what many think,the gondolas are propelled with
 a punting motion, but with an oar, as the waters
 are too deep for a pole.
They travel at 3 miles an hour, same as a walking pace.

These sleek vessels are ten metres in length and  
one and half metres wide. They weigh half a tonne.

They take two months to build and 
cost between 35,000-50,000 euros.
They last about fifteen years.

Gondolas are built at the three remaining boatyards 
in the same manner by highly skilled tradesmen.  

Gondolas have two hundred and eighty separate pieces
  and are constructed using eight different types of wood
(fir, oak, cherry, elm, walnut, mahogany, larch and lime).
The wood is seasoned for a year.
The oar is made of beech wood.

It is a law that all are painted with six coats
 of shiny black paint. 

The metal fitting on the prow is called 
the Ferro da Prora meaning iron. 
 Located under the main blade it is a comb with 
six teeth representing the six sestieri(districts)of Venice.
The Ferro is both decorative and acts as a counter weight. 

The gondolas have individual and unique styles of upholstery, detailing and trims, some more elaborate than others.

One of the many gondola "stations"

Parking chaos in the lunchtime break

A less appealing side of owning a gondola,
 is the baling out when flooded!

As you can read I am rather fascinated  
with Venice and its gorgeous gondolas!

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