Today the gondola is only used by tourists. If today [When?] 433 gondoliers have a navigation license, there can not be more. The number of gondolas in the sixteenth century was estimated at 10,000. The gondoliers were once a separate caste, who wanted a father to pass on the secrets of his knowledge to one of his sons.
This system has disappeared since 1980 and the gondolier is now selected on open competition to all. On examination, one must not only prove one's science of rowing, his seriousness for the maintenance of the boat, but also his diligent and courteous way of welcoming tourists and helping them settle comfortably. The knowledge of foreign languages is obviously a plus.
In 2009, a first woman was allowed to drive a gondola, she officiates in the district of Dorsoduro. One of the ambitions of the gondolier is to participate one day in the annual championship: win the contest and belong to a family that includes winners is very important. The biggest annual race is the Regata Storica. Training to win is a constant concern because the competitors are very numerous. Aligning two or three successes ranks the young rower among the most solid reputations. The race reaches five kilometers, which must often be covered in the heat. © Photo of Emmanuel Buchot
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