Gondolas might be the most recognisable boat in the world. But not many, not even Venetians, know what an incredible piece of engineering it is; there is certainly skill in steering it but it pales to that required to building one, which takes about 500 hours, rather a long time considering a gondola’s life-span is of only 20 years. Squero is the Venetian shipyard where gondolas are built, this is definitely the most famous, the Squero of san Trovaso; it is one of the few surviving historical squeri in Venice and surely the most visible and visited. The building looks more like a mountain hut, and for good reason. Remember that Venice did not have much wood available in its surroundings and would often import it from mountainous regions, where merchants might easily have drawn a sketch of the house exteriors there, which have evidently found their way back here.
Zattere and Gesuati
Here we are on the Zattere, where long rafts – or zattere – would come to deposit huge loads of salt which would then be stored in the Magazzini del Sale, the immense salt warehouses a bit further along the waterfront, a testament of Venice’s successful reliance on its natural resources. Now you will find the church of the Gesuati, built in the 18th century and so rather modern compared to most buildings; it faces the Giudecca Canal, almost in an act of defiance to the Redentore Church on the Giudecca, the stretch of land on the other side. It is on the day of the Redentore, a religious festivity held in July in honour of the end of the plague in the 16th century, that a bridge connects the Zattere to the Giudecca; public boats stop running and the whole canal is carpeted with boats, canoes and yachts where people eat, drink and dance to music before enjoying the midnight fireworks. Truly a unique, wholly Venetian, experience.
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