The gondola has always fascinated and inspired artists and writers around the world with its elegance and aura of mystery. It has been compared to everything from a coffin to a shell, from a violin to a snake, and even a floating slipper. What does it remind you of?
The first gondolas date back a thousand years, although initially they were shorter and wider. The gondola, as we know it today, was born in the early 1700s. The current shape is ideal for floating easily within the network of canals in the city of Venice.
If you notice correctly, the gondola is asymmetrical, wider on the left to allow the gondolier to carry it with a single oar. A jewel of naval engineering, unique in giving you what writer Mark Twain called "the sweetest and most pleasant locomotion" there is.
Venetians are said to enter a gondola only twice in their lives: their wedding and their funeral. Until the 18° century, gondolas were once mainly owned by nobles. Employed gondoliers worked for them at a rather low pay.
Gondoliers were essentially taxi drivers, so they were always in step with the gossip surrounding the city's elite members, who went to brothels, gambling houses or simply spent private time with their lovers inside the gondola felze, a cover in the center of the gondola that provided the much-needed secrecy. And it is precisely because they knew so much about so many that gondoliers were excused for being loud and brash. It is well known that when you turn a corner on a small canal, your gondolier will shout his "Oé" as a warning to the other gondoliers, a sound that has become part of Venice itself. Gondoliers are extremely proud of their work and of being bearers of a centuries-old tradition, which they also maintain by speaking strictly Venetian dialect rather than Italian.