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La Bussola - Free Tours of Venice

Canaletto, Regatta on the Grand Canal
16 Feb

Gondolas then and now

Gondola used to be the main means of transportation for Venetians pretty much up until the invention of motorboats.

First mentioning of gondola was in 1094: the same year St. Mark’s Basilica was consecrated.

Ancient postcards showing a Gondola sailing in St. Mark's

Ancient postcards showing a Gondola sailing in St. Mark’s

At the beginning you could decorate and colour your gondola however you wanted. Wealthy noble families would even risk bankruptcy in order to maintain their appearances and continued to decorate their gondolas.

Gondolas represented by Genitle Bellini in the early 1500's

Gondolas represented by Genitle Bellini in the early 1500’s

Back in the past, gondolas could even be covered up with a wooden cabin called fez.

Ancient gondola conserved in Ca' Rezzonico museum

Ancient gondola conserved in Ca’ Rezzonico museum

It was the Senate that ended this extravagance and put out a law to ban decorations and to make all gondolas black.

Today’s use of gondolas is mainly touristic: you can take a gondola ride pretty much anywhere in the city. The price is fixed, it’s 80 € for 30 minutes.

Tourists enjoying a gondola serenade

Tourists enjoying a gondola serenade

There are also wedding gondolas…

A gondola decorated for a wedding

A gondola decorated for a wedding

… or funeral gondolas.

An 18th century funeral boat in Venice

An 18th century funeral boat in Venice

But the ones we love the most is ‘traghetto’. Traghetto means ‘ferry boat’ but it is actually a shuttle service across Grand Canal. One of the things about traghetti to love the most is that you can get a gondola ride spending just 2€! Of course this will last only two minutes, but that’s the way locals do it.

People getting on a traghetto at Rialto dock

People getting on a traghetto at Rialto dock

And please don’t forget our friends in Las Vegas who work really hard to keep Venetian traditions alive in the United States of America!

Gondola ride in Vegas' Grand Canal

Gondola ride in Vegas’ Grand Canal

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