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The Gondola: a Symbol of Venice

This typical Venetian boat is still made using eight different kinds of wood by skillful master carpenters.

They repair and construct this black boat in the so-called squero, a small boatyard, whose name derives from the square ruler used by shipwrights.

In this workshop the gondola takes its well-known asymmetric shape, that allows the gondolier to keep his balance, while gliding his boat along shallow canals.

In the bow there is the iron, (ferro) a stylized piece with multiple meanings. The shape of an inverted S represents Venice most famous canal, the Grand Canal. The arch over the top point of the ridge has the shape of the Rialto Bridge.

According to tradition, the six points represent the six districts of the city: Castello, San Marco, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce. Under these points there are three screws that represent three of the most famous lagoon islands: Murano, Burano and Torcello. At the back there is another point that symbolizes the Giudecca island.

But the gondola did not have this shape in the past. The first time the term was used to describe it was in 1094 and it was called “gundula”. The origin of its name is not known yet.

In 1486 in the ” Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam” Bernhard von Breydenbach described Saint Mark’s water basin and its typical boats.

In the 15th century the gondola had a cabin and it did not have a front iron piece yet, which appears later, in the 16th century.

Noble people owned their gondola, and they decorated it in a pompous way. To avoid waste and competition, during a period of decline, the republic decided to paint all the gondolas black.

In 1800 gondolas were used less and less by Venetians and more recently by tourists from all over the world.

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