The Venetian Gondola

Venice City Centre

The Venetian GondolaThe gondola is the typical Venetian boat and the most famous type of marine transportation in the world. It has become the symbol of Venice while it has also become more of a tourist attraction than an actual way of getting around...

The name comes from the Latiin "cuncula" or ‘shell’. It is 11m long and 600kgs in weight but is easily manoeuvred by one man – the gondolier. He can be seen gliding along the many canals that wind through districts thoughout the city.  It is, as  a design unique in the world.

The structure is asymmetric with the left side wider than the right so that it goes forward inclined on its side. The asymmetry moves the centre of gravity towards the right so that more of the right hand side of the gondola is under water than the left. The boat tends to roll toward the left because of the force of the rowing hand and the inclination toward the right corrects this. The bottom is flat which allows the gondola to pass through the shallow water of the canals where the water can sometimes only be a few centimetres high.

The gondola is built in a ‘squero’ or boatyard. It is made out of 8 different types of wood. There also elements in metal – iron - on the prow with the comb like shape that represents the 6 districts in Venice. Then there is the ‘risso’ on the stern which represents the Giudecca Island.
The characteristic black colour comes from a law promulgated by the legal bodies who represented the undertakers of the city.  It’s aim was to stop nobles and wealthy people from over- decorating their boats. But it is a common colour for all Venetian boats because of the tendency to use a coat of pitch as a waterproofing and sealing agent.

In 1580 there were about 10,000 gondolas. Today there are only 500. Today transport is motorised, fast and for these obvious reasons, is the choice of  Venetian residents on a daily basis. The gondola doesn’t cause many waves and is very unstable. For this reason it is a popular choice for a special night out especially amongst the young.


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