History of Venetian gondolas

History of Venetian gondolas

Origin of venetian gondolas

Famous Venetian gondolas were born in the Squero San Travaso in the 17 th century. This is also where the last gondola dockyards of Venice which are still in use are located. The term squero means a team of persons working together to build boats.

How do they row gondolas?

The gondola is strongly associated with Venice. Their unique asymmetric design with a longer left-hand side allows gondoliers to row it without changing the side the oar is on. Gondolas owe their unique shape and properties to a meticulous building process based on techniques and principles that have remained unchanged for centuries. They are entirely hand-made from 280 interlocking parts which are made of eight different types of wood each with specific properties necessary to give the boat its characteristics.

Appearance

The only metal elements are the characteristic ferro at the bow (front) and the stern (rear). The S shape of the ferro symbolizes the winding of the Grand Canal, while the top represents a stylized Doge’s cap on top of an arched aperture, the Rialto Bridge, and the six teeth representing the six districts of Venice.

The historical gondola was slightly different from its modern version with a lower prow, a higher ferro and a felze in the center of the gondola (a removable cabin for shelter during wind or rain).

Gondola’s maintenance

Gondolas need to be checked, cleaned and coated with tar once a month in summer. After 14 years gondolas are being restored, after which they can be reused for another 10 years. In the 16th-century, when the gondola was still main means of transportation, over 10 000 of these boats cruised the waters of Venice’s canals. Nowadays there are only about 400 left, now mainly used as a tourist attraction and, as a result, the number of docks, where gondolas were being built and repaired, also dropped dramatically.

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