A gondolier – a symbol of Venice

A gondolier is a gondola driver in Venice and most of us know this from the school lessons. But when it actually comes to the...

A gondolier in Venice

A gondolier is a gondola driver in Venice and most of us know this from the school lessons. But when it actually comes to the profession of a gondolier many questions arise. So let’s look a little closer at this famous profession and its representatives.

What is a gondola?

Gondolas are traditional Italian rowing boats used for transportation in the city of Venice.

Old picture of a gondola
Old picture of a gondola

The first mention of a gondola dates back to the 1094 which makes gondolier one of the oldest professions in the world!

Can anyone become a gondolier?

No. In the past the gondoliers’ skilles were passed from generation to generation, usually from father to son and the gondoliers’ comunity was very close. However it has not became much easier nowadays. Today a future gondolier has first of all to become a member of the Gondoliers’ Guild, then get instructed for 400 hours by an experienced gondolier and pass many tests such as language and Venetian culture exams, a test of the physical health and of the navigation skills.

Is it easy to steer a gondola?

It is quite hard. Gondolas are made from solid wood which makes it extremely heavy (although, stable, which is a plus). But the main difficulty is caused not by gondola itself but by the narrowness of the Venetian canals and the amount of other gondolas every gondolier meets on his way. For these reasons the work of gondoliers is pretty tough.

Two gondolas in Venice
The Venetian “traffic”

And don’t forget that a gondolier is not only a driver but also a tourists guide: while steering he also has to talk and answer the tourists’ questions, often in foreign languages.

Does that mean I can feel safe in the gondolier’s hands?

Absolutely. As you can see after so many hours of training the Venetian gondoliers are likely to become experts both in steering and in sharing with you many interesting fact about the history of Venice. This experience is completely safe and extremely interesting. Don’t think twice before including a gondola ride to your to-do list when visiting Venice.