Of all the trademarks of Venice—and there are many, from the
gilded Basilica of San Marco to the melancholy Bridge of Sighs—none is more
ubiquitous than the gondola. The internationally acclaimed “American with the
Venetian heart” Donna Leon tells its fascinating story.
First used in medieval Venice as a deftly maneuverable
getaway boat, the gondola evolved over the centuries into a floating pleasure
palace, bedecked in silk, that facilitated the romantic escapades of the
Venetian elite. Today the gondola wears black—a gleaming, elegant hue, and is
manned by robust gondolieri in black and white striped shirts and straw hats.
A tourist favorite, the gondola has never ceased to be a part
of authentic Venice. Each boat’s 280 pieces are carefully fashioned in a maestro’s
workshop—though Leon also recounts a tale of an American friend who attempted
to make a gondola all on his own. The feat took five years and countless
do-overs. But the gondola is a work of art well worth the labor. And once its
arched prow pushes off from the dock, the single Venetian at its oar just might
break out in a barcarole, a popular
Italian boat song. Download and start listening now!