The Gondola

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The Gondola - Without doubt the gondola is the world's most photographed boat. For millions of tourists, its unmistakable image has become the emblem of Venice itself. In the past, gondolas were the status symbols of Venetian families and were sumptuously decorated and adorned to the point where the Venetian magistracy was forced to pass laws limiting the use of precious fabrics and excessive decorations. The black colour probably derives from the use of pitch to waterproof the hull. The gondola as it is today is the result of lengthy evolution, the fruit of at least five centuries of constant modifications tailoring the boat to the needs of the user, improving its seaworthiness and above all adapting it to the changing characteristics of the local waters. Its construction makes the gondola unique among boats. It is asymmetrical (the left-hand side is wider than the right-hand) and thus always floats with one side slightly lower than the other. It reaches almost 11 metres long and 1.5 metres wide with a weight of more than 350 kilograms. The flat bottom allows it to be used with water just a few centimetres deep. The 280 constituent arts are made of eight different types of wood and the only two metal elements are the characteristic "ferro" at the prow and "risso" at the stern. The original role of the prow "ferro" was to ensure longitudinal stability, balancing the weight of the gondolier. According to popular tradition, the front "combs" represent the six "sestieri" (districts) into which Venice is divided, the rear comb represents the island of Giudecca, the double "S"-shaped curve symbolises the Canal Grande and the half-moon under the stylised "Doge's cap" represents the Rialtobridge. Until a few decades ago, there was a removable wooden cabin in the centre of the gondola known as the "felze" to protect passengers during the winter. Today this is no longer used as it hinders visibility and is thus not welcomed by the tourist.