How the gondoliers of Venice will be coming back Post Covid 19

A trip to Venice will see you surrounded by canals filled with gondolas and no trip to the town should be completed without a trip out on one of these beautiful boats. You can even pop along to who have beautiful Oars & Nautical items that you can buy to remind you of your day on the water.

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The origin of word ‘gondola’ is not clear, but it is thought to be linked to the word ‘kondoura’ which in Greek means ‘small boat’, with the first boats thought to date back to around the 11th Century. The boats were designed to work specifically in the canals and the lagoon of Venice with flat-bottoms allow them to travel now the narrow canals with ease. The modern-day boats are still built to these specifications and are all built by hand. They follow a uniform design of weighing 700kg and are made up of around 280 different pieces made from 8 different woods including elm, lime, larch, oak fir, cherry, mahogany and walnut. The boats are also all found in the same colour – black. This is due to a law being passed in the 16th Century which stated that the gondolas must be painted black. This was put in place a bit like a competitions requirement to prevent nobility from competing with one another for the most flamboyant and ornate boat. The boats now have three decorations, a curly tail a multi-pronged prow and a pair of seahorses.

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The gondolas are steered using an oar that is made from beech wood and a rowlock made from walnut. These two together all the gondola to manoeuvre in eight different ways including:

  • Forwards rowing
  • Backwards rowing
  • Slowing down
  • Turning
  • Stopping

The rowlock and oar are created to suit the specifications of each gondolier according to their height, strength and rowing style and are often carried with them in case they are required for any reason to steer another boat.

The prow on the front of the boat is designed to prevent any damage from occurring to the wood should the gondola collide with another boat or a part of the canal. It is made from metal that can include iron, brass, aluminium and stainless steel. The prow is usually hand crafted, although for larger items Electric Press Brakes, such as the ones found at can be used.  It also acts as a counterweight at the front of the boat to compensate for the gondolier on the back. There are usually six prongs on the prow that represent the six different administrative districts in the town of Venice.

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