Monday, March 28, 2005

Gondolas on the Grand Canal

With origins going back at least a thousand years, the gondola is probably the most-recognizable symbol of Venice. All gondolas are painted black, a result of the Sumptuary Laws of 1562, which placed strict limits on lavish displays of wealth.

Gondolas are built with a slight curve to the right so one person can propel the boat using an oar on the right side of the stern. Gondolas are extremely effective. A 170-pound man rowing a fully-loaded gondola (which can weight up to almost 2,000 pounds) uses up no more energy than he would walking down the street.

Today, there are about 400 gondolas operating in Venice, compared to 10,000 in the 19th century. Only Venetian men have been granted gondolier licenses. In 2004, Alexandra Hai, a film-maker from Hamburg who lives in Venice, became the first (and only) woman to apply for a gondolier's license. She failed the test, which is administered by the Gondolier's Association, because her gondola bumped into another one during the trial. Posted by Hello

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Glass "Bird" Lands in the Lagoon

On my last trip to Venice, I saw this in Saint Mark's Basin, in front of the Punta della Dogana (the customs house which guards the entrance of the Grand Canal). The sculpture, made of glass and steel, has 356 blown glass "feathers" and represents a glass bird floating on the water. It was donated to the city by the Glass School Abate Zanetti. The feathers are lit at night and reflect off the water. The sculpture was put in place on May 9, 2004. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Burano Colors

Burano is the island of fishermen, lace, and colorful houses. This is a typical view along one of the canals. Posted by Hello

One of My Favorite Stories...

This is from the Januray 24, 2005 edition of "Buongiorno Venezia," a great email newsletter about Venice doings. And this is one of my favorites of the new year....

"To understand the uniqueness of a town such as Venice, perhaps this titbit can help explain it better than many other examples. For a week now, the island of Burano, famous for its lace and coloured houses, has been without newspapers because the owner of the island's only newsstand is on holiday. Literally overnight, the 6,000 inhabitants of the island were deprived of their printed reports on the news of the day. For the desperate among them, they can purchase a paper on the nearby island of Murano -- a journey that takes an hour there and back -- or find someone with Internet access so they can visit the website of their favourite 'giornali'."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Canal Runs Beneath It...

This photo of Santo Stefano is taken from a bridge behind the church and shows why this church is unique. It is the only one in Venice that is built over a canal. Sometime in the 18th century, the church expanded over the Rio del Santissimo di San Stefano. So, if you duck, it's possible to go under the church! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's Weird About This? No Tourists! No Boats!

A view from the Rialto Bridge, taken early in the morning as the sun was rising--and no traffic was on the Grand Canal. Posted by Hello