Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Gondola

There’s one item that comes to mind when you think about the city of Venice; gondola.

Gondola Ride in Venice

These long, manually propelled boats have become an icon of the region, with tourists flocking to the floating city ready to take the romantic ride of their dreams.

A history of the Gondola

The first written mention of a boat called a gondola was by a Venetian official in a letter in 1094. This means that gondola has been inhabiting the canals of Venice from at least the 11th century.

In the 14th century paintings of Venice began to feature gondola. However, they were far from the only boats painted and were not used as frequently as other boat types. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rowing style of gondoliers. In the next century, gondola became more ornate. Elaborate ironwork was added to their outsides and the design of the boat was improved for better balance and placement in the water.

By the 16th century, gondola were becoming so extravagant and ornate that Venetian authorities banned all ostentation of any kind. Since then, the boats have been uniformly black. However, they were allowed to take some creative license. But just a little. Gondola were able to have a curly tail, pair of seahorses, and a multi-pronged Ferro. These ornate features are quite characteristic of the boats seen today.

Fast forward to the 17th and 18th centuries and approximately ten thousand gondola were being used across Venice. By the end of the 19th century, gondolas were on the out. Though many were still intricately decorated and beautiful to see, they had a new rival. Steam powered boards were faster and carried more people. Just as gondola reached their peak, technology created their decline.

It wasn’t long before the gondola were few and far between while steamboats filled the Venetian canals.

Taking a gondola ride

Today gondola aren’t really used by locals as a form of transport. There are public ferries that are more frequent, quicker, and far cheaper. Generally speaking, gondola exist solely for tourists to enjoy.

Gondola rides are quite expensive, with rides costing around 100 euro for less than an hour on the water. Don’t let the price dismay you though. A gondola ride in Venice is a once in a lifetime experience and you will cherish every minute of it. Plus, many of our Venice tours include a gondola ride in the price!

Gondola fit up to six people so if you’re travelling as a group rather than a couple you can enjoy the boat ride together. Though it is perhaps not quite as romantic, it will save you a few euros compared to hiring multiple boats.

Gondola style

Gondola’s are stylish and lush. They are like the luxury cars of water vehicles. With plush seating, warm blankets and beautiful decorations. They are comfortable forms of transport and have plenty of space for you and your loved ones.

Many gondoliers will speak a little bit of English which is useful for the trip and learning about the boat you are on. Most gondoliers are required to wear black pants, a striped shirt, and dark shoes. Sometimes they will also wear a banded straw hat. Yep, they really are just like in the movies.

One thing that isn’t like the movies though is singing. Gondoliers are not required to sing or tell you stories about Venice as they row, so be respectful and don’t expect to have a Hollywood style trip.

Gondolas are propelled by gondoliers using a single oar. This makes it easier for them to manoeuvre the boat through the narrow Venetian canals. It’s also good to note that gondola do not have awnings, so if you’re visiting in the hot months, you’ll need a big sunhat to protect you from the suns rays.

Things you didn’t know about gondola

Gondolas are made from 280 individual components made from eight types of wood. The wood types that are used are lime, larch, oak, fir, cherry, walnut, elm and mahogany. It takes approximately two months to build each gondola and create then assemble all 280 pieces. Their design is so specific that they are even all the same weight, a mammoth 700kg.

They’re lopsided. If you look at a gondola you’ll realise there is a tilt to it. This is intentional. The lopsidedness of the boat helps to balance out the weight of the gondolier who stands to one side.

It takes over 400 hours of training before you can become a gondolier. It is a highly competitive position, with only three or four new licenses granted each year. After completing the significant training would be gondoliers must pass a written test. The test includes questions relating to how to operate a gondola, Venetian landmarks and history, and language skills. Gondoliers have their oar. Oars are used to propel and steer the boats, and the design used is very specific to propelling gondola through Venice’s shallow, narrow canals. Each oar is carved to suit the needs of each gondolier to ensure accuracy in movement.

There are female gondoliers. The first female gondolier was licenced in 2010 after following in her father’s footsteps. There was no law against females passing the test however tradition had previously mandated that gondoliers were male.

There you have it, just about everything you could ever want to know about the famous gondola!

Book your gondola tour with us today and experience the magic of sailing through the canals of Venice for yourself.

If you’re after something extra romantic, choose a private gondola tour for you and your love. You’ll get the gondola for yourself as your gondolier traverses through Venice past the city’s most scenic areas.

Related article: What are Different Styles of Architecture in Venice?

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