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Gondola and Venice. It's not possible to talk about the first one without talking about the second since the gondola is considered one of the symbols of the city. The origin of the gondola is ancient, from over 1000 years ago. The first kind of gondola was called scaula and it was a rowing boat that was really stocky, with the shape of a nut. Through the generations the gondola changed to a more elongated shape with the characteristic flat keel, which is perfect to avoid getting beached in the shallow lagoon. The origin of the name "gondola" seems to be controversial. Some experts speculate that the origin of the name comes from latin word cymbula (small boat) or from concha (concula=shell). Others speculate that it comes from the greek word kuntelas, joining the words kontos (short) and helas (shuttle). There is an official note about a gondulam since 1094, in which a decree of Doge Vitale Falier made mention of it.

Gondola shown in its length

The length of a gondola is 10,85 metres and the medium width is about 1,40 metres. Many kinds of wood are used to make a gondola: fir, cherry, chestnut, elm, oak, linden tree and many more. It can take up to 2 years to build it, using about 280 wooden pieces, and its weight is about 350 kg. Apart from the hull there are other fundamental parts required to make a complete gondola. They are: the irons (one on the prow, the other on the stern) and the forcola, (the support for the oar). In ancient times it was common to use the felze. It was a closed cabin, located in the middle of the boat, used as a bachelor apartment. It was perfect for lovers, hidden from curious eyes.

gondola irons

The weight of the iron prow is 10 kg, or more if heavier metals are used. The six "teeth" of this iron represent the six districts (sestieri), the upper part represents Doge's hat. The forcola is made of walnut and is produced by the remer. The oar is made of beech wood. In the nearby of the Salute Church, between S. Gregorio and the Guggenheim Collection, is located a workshop that produces forcole and oars for the gondola, made by Saverio Pastor. Dorsoduro 341, Fondamenta Soranzo detta Fornace. Phone and fax: +39 041 5225699. Opening hours 8,30am-12,30am and 2,00pm-6,00pm, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Another workshop that produces oars and forcole used by gondola is located in S. Polo 2768/B, only twenty metres from the birthplace of Carlo Goldoni. This workshop is directed by Franco Furlanetto and respects the following schedule: Monday-Wednesday-Friday 8,30-18,30 Tue-Thu 8,30-17 Saturday 8,30-13. Phone +39 041 5209544.

Squero San Trovaso

The boatyards where gondolas are made are called squeri, from the greek word "eskharion". In ancient times in the city there were tens of squeri. In the sixteenth century there were 10,000 gondolas. Many squeri were distributed along the banks of the Grand Canal, but because they hindered the navigation, a decree in 1433 moved them to the Arsenal. Today in Venice there are only two squeri in existance: the San Trovaso boatyard and the Tramontin boatyard. Today there are about 600 gondolas.

Gondola asymmetric shape

The gondola has a characteristic asymmetric shape (to the right), created for permitting the gondolier to row with minor effort. The "squerarolo" must construct it on special models (called "sesti") and have to bend many wooden parts with fire. Everything must be perfect and all this is obtained by the experience of "axe-masters". The most celebrated was Domenico Tramontin who invented the actual shape of the gondola in the first years of twentieth century. Moreover there are two famous "axe-masters" that helped to develop and to preserv this special boat: Corrado Costantini and Giovanni Giuponi (the second one made the "disdotona", a parade-boat with 18 paddles).


The gondola is painted black, considered the colour of elegance by Venetians. Until the sixteenth century it could have different colours and adornments that were forbidden by Senate laws. Some people say that the black colour was given to the gondola for the mourning following the pestilence of 1630 that killed half of the population, but the colour of mourning in Venice, during the Serenissima Republic, was the red.

Until the nineteenth century there were about 20 ferry-gondolas to cross the Grand Canal. That number was drastically reduced following the construction of the Accademia Bridge before (1854), and the Scalzi Bridge, later (1857). These bridges, with the Rialto Bridge (1588) and soon the Ponte della Zirada, allow people to cross the Grand Canal without the help of a boat.


The ferry-gondola is wider than a normal one. It is rowed by two gondoliers and can carry up to 14 people. The fare to cross the Grand Canal by gondola is 0,70 euros each (for Venetians), tourists pay 2,00 euros each. The ferry-gondola (traghetto) can be considered an inexpensive solution for people to experience the feeling of a short ride. The fare during the day for a 40-minute gondola ride is 80 euros, for up to six people. The night fare is 100 euro, after 7pm.

Gondola-ferry (Traghetti), times

Fontego dei Turchi to San Marcuola: Actually closed for restoration.
Pescheria to Santa Sofia: Monday-Sunday 9am-9pm.
Riva del Vin to Riva del Carbon: Mon-Sat 8,30am-12,30pm.
San TomÓ to Ca' Garzoni: Mon-Sun 9am-7pm.
Ca' Rezzonico to San samuele: Mon-Sat 7,45am-10,45am (only during the school year).
Salute to Santa Maria del Giglio: all week 9am-6pm.
Punta della Dogana to S. Marco Vallaresso: all week 9am-2pm.

The institution assigned to protect the gondola is the Ente Gondola. For information or complains, phone +39 041 5285075.


The man who drives the gondola is naturally the gondolier, that in ancient times was called barcaiolo. Every noble family in Venice had a private gondolier called de casada. At that age the gondoliers were united in corporation and had their own corporate headquarter inside of S. Silvestro Church. The profession of gondolier was handed down from father to son but actually the designation is given after an open competition. It caused a sensation in 1999 the first request of a woman to become a gondolier. The German Alexandra Hai, native of Hamburg, that rows the gondola from long time ago, has taken part in some open competitions but having no success, yet. However some recourses could give her soon the wished licence.

Finally, a suggestion: if you wish reduce your cost on the fare of your gondola ride, you can ask to other tourists to share the ride (and the fare) with you. Remember, for one person or up to six people, the fare is the same: 80 euros.

Gondolas are available at:

Gondolas at Rialto Rialto: telephone +39 041 5224904.
Bacino Orseolo: ph. +39 041 5289316.
Danieli: telephone +39 041 5222254.
Dogana: telephone +39 041 5206120.
Ferrovia: ph. +39 041 718543.
Piazzale Roma: ph. +39 041 5221151.
Santa Maria del Giglio: ph. +39 041 5222073.
San Marco: telephone +39 041 5200685.
Santa Sofia: ph. +39 041 5222844.
San TomÓ: telephone +39 041 5205275.
TrinitÓ: ph. +39 041 5231837.

In the near future it will be possible to book a gondola ride online.

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