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Venice's most enduring symbol

The modern gondolier

My gondola followed the course of the small canals; like the mysterious hands of a Genie leading me through the maze of this oriental city, they seemed as I advanced, to be carving a road for me through the heart of a crowded quarter that they clove asunder, barely dividing with a slender fissure, arbitarily carved, the tall houses with their tiny Moorish windows... Marcel Proust

The gondola, Venice’s most enduring symbol, was first mentioned during the reign of Vitale Falier, way back in 1094. It took another five or six hundred years or so to evolve into its present form, perfectly adapted to Venice’s unique environment of narrow, shallow canals that often intersect at right angles.

The modern gondola measures precisely 10.87m in length, and 1.42m maximum width. It is built out of eight different woods – fir, cherry, mahogany, larch, walnut, oak, lime and elm – that must be seasoned in the dockyard, or squero (a word believed to be derived from the Greek eskàrion for shipyard).

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History and Anecdotes


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls, Gary Houston, Creative Commons License, Giacomo Franco , Jorge Franganillo, Njsmith3