Venice, Gondolas and Me

The eternal image of Venice

Although I have never been in one, I've always had a soft spot for gondolas. There's something incredibly romantic watching them bob up and down as they make their way along the Grand Canal, or hearing the water of Venice lap against them as they are tied up for the night.

Gondoliers getting ready for the day

Their history is equally romantic. They are first recorded in the Venetian annals in 1094, although they probably existed in this floating town much earlier. Even the origin of the name is unclear, possibly being derived from the Latin cuncula (meaning shell) or cymbula (meaning a little boat).
Busy at work in a gondola yard

Imagine my delight upon finding a squero - a yard where gondolas are built. Only a few remain in Venice, and the Squero San Trovaso is the oldest yard remaining in Venice. Canals may seem crowded and incredibly chaotic now, but at the height of her powers Venice boasted over 10,000 gondolas.

The Squero San Trovaso

The Squero San Trovaso hides along a canal of the same name, in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. The building itself reflects the Alpine origin of most squeraroli (men who work on gondolas) - most come from the Dolomites, where the best wood is to be found. From where I stood on the opposite side of the canal I could see the men busily covering the gondolas with black lacquer.

A gondola tank?

In Venice, of course, there's always the unusual - such as a tank gondola. Not quite sure how the gondolier is going to see where he's headed, but in Venice they always find a way.


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