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Traditional view of Venice with gondolas on the canal that runs through town

Traditional view of Venice with gondolas on the canal that runs through town


The gondola used in Venice at the beginning of the twenty-first century consists of 280 pieces of wood (larch oak, walnut, cherry, linden, cedar and plywood) and two metal pieces at the bow and stern. The boat measures 10.80 meters long and 1.38 meters wide and weighs 600 kilograms. Low and light to be manageable, it is propelled by a single rower who stands at the left rear rowing on the right side, hence the asymmetry of the gondola, a modification introduced in the nineteenth century. The transverse axis is shifted to the right to account for the weight of the gondolier while the left side is more curved to keep a straight path.

The only train is in Indonesian wood and measures 4.20 meters. Plate, it is not fixed, which allows to release it quickly, and is simply based on the forcola (it), a wooden piece usually made of walnut, cut in a single piece of wood and cut according to the measurements of the gondolier. The morsi (jaws), these eight rounded indentations, are used to row. Each is used for precise maneuvering (forward, reverse, short turn, on-site rotation). The candle placed opposite the gondolier is used to illuminate the night and brings a note of romance. The cavali ("horse"), an ornament at the mid-length of the gondola at the level of the armrests, represents allegorical figures such as a seahorse or a siren.

The ferro de prua (Venetian term for the figurehead of the gondola) was originally used to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier. During the seventeenth century he acquired a precise symbolism. The six parallel horizontal bars symbolize the six sestieri ("neighborhoods") of Venice and the bar behind the island of Giudecca. The curvature symbolizes the Grand Canal. The big part at the top of the ferro represents the hat of a doge (formerly ruler of the city of Venice). Finally, the empty space formed by the meeting of the upper figure and the first bar represents the Rialto Bridge. He is always white. © Photo of Emmanuel Buchot

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