The origins of this boat date back to 1094, written in the records of the Doge Vitale Falier. Paintings and drawings from the late 1400s and early 1500s document their prevalence in society, though not as elaborate as the 1800s. Today there are approximately 500 gondola in Venice, all controlled by the society. This is a small number compared to the 10,000+ which were used in the late 1500s. Granted there was no vaporetto or taxi, so they were quite necessary. But a ride in one didn’t cost 150 Euro, either. Below is the Bacino Orseolo, Gondola Parking just off San Marco. It’s a great place to get pictures. It’s design is also of necessity, the ability to travel in shallow waters, and the ability to be controlled by one person using a single oar. These dictated the overall design, which has been more or less the same since the 1600s. The original gondola has a small enclosure, to keep the occupant hidden from the weather as well as the peering eyes around town. Initially they belonged only to the wealthy, as you must be able to afford not only the gondola, but the gondolier. (A bit like today!) One of the last private gondolas was that of Peggy Guggenheim. Winter or summer, almost every visitor wants to have this experience.
Little symbolizes Venice like the Gondola. The front of the gondola has the “rebbi”, which looks like teeth of metal. These represent the six sestiere (areas) of Venice. The tooth on the back of the rebbi represents the island of Giudecca. The gondolier (the guy who rows the boat, though today there is at least one woman gondolier) have their own union and the guild for the production of the gondola was written in 1607 the “mariegola” of the gondola builders. It contains the rules for the squero (the gondola companies). The builder is known as the squerarolo. The weight of the gondoliere is factor in the construction of a gondola. It requires 9 different types of wood and is still made without modern tools with the timbers still bent using fire. The Venetian Foot, rather than metric is used to measure because it is more exacting for producing the gondola.
If you want to have a gondola made, fortunately there are still a couple of firms who produce gondolas. It takes about 500-600 hours of work and the wood must be perfect and dried naturally in the open air for several years. And there’s still a demand for them, the Venetian Hotels in both Las Vegas and Macau have authentic gondolas. Check out D.co Tramontin & Figli, established in 1884. www.tramontingondole.itGoogle