Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Gondolas Going Back to the Basic Look

Wow! Where did the month go? Sorry I haven't been keeping Weird Venice up-to-date. I got a new job and, while I really like it, is keeping me busy. I hope this article about gondolas going back to the basics (from our friends at ANSA) makes up for the lag. Anyone been to Venice lately? Got any stories to share?

New rules will cut tacky tourist trappings (ANSA) - Venice, July 25 - Venice's gondolas are set to go back to basics, shedding the glitzy trappings recently tacked on to lure tourists.

The city's gondola association has drawn up guidelines aimed at eliminating "a tasteless and tacky free-for-all."

The body is poised to bar "the garish cushions, multi-coloured seating and flashy decorations which have appeared in recent years."

The question of gondola styling has been on the agenda since last summer, when traditionalists rebelled against a growing trend to glam up the historic boats. "I'm glad tradition has prevailed," association chief Roberto Puppi said Tuesday.

"It shows gondoliers are serious about keeping up the high standards of their calling.

"Clients often prefer a flamboyant craft but the boat has a history and characteristics that must be upheld."

Under the new rules, statuettes on prows and sterns will be cut in number and size and stripped of the gold leaf that has crept in over the last decade.

Seat backs and cushions will have to be made of plain leather, outlawing fancier materials.

Colour-wise, gondoliers will have a choice of black, dark blue or purple for their interiors.

All other parts of the boat must be black.

The drive to apply traditional standards will not cover ceremonial boats used for romantic occasions, which may still carry the ornate and colourful wooden cabins - called 'felze' - that have always kept riverborne Venetians away from prying eyes.

"But the common-or-garden gondola has to recover characteristics in keeping with its history and iconography," Puppi stressed. The proposed return to sobriety will be put to the city council shortly.

Once the new norms are approved, the city's 400 or so gondoliers will have to stick to them under threat of losing their licenses.

In another move, Venice's gondola agency, Ente Gondola, is bringing in new apprenticeships for aspiring gondoliers.

The courses are "aimed at making sure new generations aren't just skilled boatsmen but also know their culture," said Ente Gondola President Antonio Iannotta. The six-month apprencticeships will ensure youngsters are well versed in gondola history and secrets as well as Venetian history and art, he said.

Until now, the main focus of gondolier schools has been making sure apprentices could handle the fine art of gondola-steering.

Black, banana-shaped gondolas have been used to ferry people and goods about the lagoon city for at least a millennium.

They developed over the centuries in response to the Venetians' need for a light, manoeuvrable transport vessel which could be steered around islands and canals by a single person

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Zooks said...

Great article, Sharon. It will be interesting to see the more uniform look of the gondolas next time I am in Venice. Thanks for sharing!

SharonZ said...

It will be interesting to see if there's any apparent change. When are you going back?

Zooks said...

I'm hoping to make it back in November, otherwise it probably won't be until springtime. Either way, it won't be soon enough!

SharonZ said...

November is a great time to visit Venice. Just be prepared to wade through some water! I went once on the 21st for the Salute festival. It's really fascinating. I took part in the procession that goes from San Marco and over a pontoon bridge to Salute. I have some photos--I'll tty to post them later in the week.

Zooks said...

I would love to see the Salute festival! The Salute is my favorite spot on a summer morning; I chase the shade as the sunshine crosses the steps, and there's a nice breeze coming across the bacino.

I went to Venice a couple of years ago in October and experienced acqua alta several times. That was really something else! One very kind gentleman pointed me in the direction of the closest elevated sidewalk so I could get to my favorite gelateria. Great memories...

Zuk said...

When in Nov are you going?