When one thinks of Venice, the first thing that comes to mind is, perhaps, the typical Gondola, instead of the museums, statues or food that the city also offers to visitors. For Venice, the gondola is of equal importance as the Colosseum is for Rome, or the Eiffel Tower is for Paris.
The gondola has been one of the main means of transportation in Venice over the last 500 years and nowadays it is used by tourists who want to visit the city from the canals; some Gondola are even private property of the gondoliers.
Around the year 1500, about a thousand Gondola were in use in the city. Today, there are approximately two hundred Gondola navigating the canals of Venice and they look very different if compared to those used in the past. The word "Gondola" was mentioned for the first time in an official document dating back to 1904.
The original name mentioned was "gondulam", which probably comes from the Latin word "cymbula" (little boat) or "cuncula" (a small shell), but these are just theories for which there is currently no evidence.
Since there are no useful documents to help us to reconstruct its appearance, we can use some of the first drawings of the gondola, to give us an idea of how they looked in the late 15th century.
They have been modified throughout the centuries and these changes were a part of a process of evolution and adaptation to different means of transport.
The first images of a real Gondola can be found in Bellini, Carpaccio and Mansueti's paintings. At first, the gondola was not so different from other boats, but at the end of 16th century they started to be slimmer and longer.
Some of them had a "felze", a covering or roof that gave them the appearance of a water carriage.
These types of gondola were probably made for wealthy people.
Throughout the centuries, the gondola underwent further changes and in the 18th century it began to look like the boat that we know today.
One of the most characteristc features of the Venetian gondola is its front ornament, called ferro ("iron" in Italian). This comb-shaped piece of metal serves as counterweight to the gondolier who stands at the rear, but it has also a decorative and symbolic purpose: the overall shape of the ferro is an "S", representing the shape of the Grand Canal, the main waterway of the city; each of the six teeth of the front part of the comb represents a sestiere (the sestieri are Venice's six quarters), while the little arch above them refers to the Rialto bridge; the back-facing tooth represents the Giudecca Canal.
The black long boat consists of 280 pieces made from different types of wood. The lenght of the Gondola is 11 metres (36 ft) and the weight is 600 kilos (1,320 lbs). Thanks to its asymmetrical outline, it can be driven with lightness and easiness by a single man with a single oar.
According to Venetian law, only men born in Venice have the possibility to become a Gondolier (oarsman). The oar moves inside an oar lock known as forcola, which has a complex shape that allows gondoliers to handle their boat with precision on the Venetian canals, which are sometimes very narrow. It is used to go forward, turn, slow down and row in reverse. The front ornament known as the ferro has more uses besides being an ornament: the first is to protect the front from accidental damage and the second is to act as a counterweight for back of the boat, which is where the Gondolier steers.
A Gondola Serenade on the canals of Venice is the ultimate romantic experience. Complete with music and sweet melodies, you will glide along the Grand Canal and the smaller canals of Venice.
You will share your evening on a gondola serenade in Venice. You will board with other guests and together you will enjoy floating along the canals of Venice. Be captivated by the glamour and elegance of the city and its magnificent palaces and churches facing the Grand Canal. One of the gondoliers will play music and sing songs throughout the 35–minute ride. Great value for money!
Duration: 35 minutes
Price: Starting from € 40 per person
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More than just a Gondola Serenade on the canals of Venice, a Gondola Ride and Serenade with Dinner is the best way to experience the romantic atmosphere of Venice. You'll be captivated by the glamour and elegance of the city as you glide in a gondola on Venice's canals and one of the gondoliers will play music and sing typical songs during the 35–minute ride. At the end of the ride, you will disembark at Campo Maria del Giglio, one of the most famous squares in Venice, and continue from there to Hostaria Ai Coristi Restaurant, near La Fenice theatre, for a two–course dinner.
Duration: 2 hours approx.
Price: Starting from € 85 per person
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Let the gondolier take you on a peaceful journey along the Grand Canal and through the minor canals of Venice on a Private Gondola Serenade. Enjoy the opportunity to admire Venice from the water, where you can truly appreciate the unique setting of this romantic city.
This tour by modern Venetian boat and with a professional guide is just the thing to fill in your day, in between viewing all the history and culture of Venice. Admire the main Venetian palaces and the monuments overlooking the Grand Canal as you cruise the famous waterways.
Duration: 1 or 2 hours
Price: Starting from €58.75 per person
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