When many people come to Venice and negotiate their first gondola ride, they think they’re shelling out a small fortune while the gondolier is making easy money.
Becoming a gondolier is no easy feat.
I used to think the whole thing about a taxi driver in NYC having to pay a hefty sum to buy a yellow cab medallion was ridiculous. I believe a wannabe gondolier has more of an uphill climb.
Used to be that a gondolier license had to pass from father to son.
Or to another male family member IF there was no son. Yep, all-in-the-family was the name of the game.
Now the process is even harder.
These days you have to belong to a 1000-year-old Gondolier’s Guild. And that comes only after 400 hours of training under the sponsorship and tutelage of an existing member, and after passing a stringent exam. A potential gondolier must demonstrate strength and agility of handling the unique boat, and a thorough understanding of the maze of canals and geography of Venice. Add to that a command of languages, and a thorough knowledge of Venice’s history and culture.
Then there’s the whole bit about staking out a spot.
I’m not an expert on this but, from what I understand, a new gondolier can’t just hang out his shingle anywhere and then commence to rake in the dough. As you would expect, some areas are better hot spots for a steady stream of ready-and-willing tourists. I’m curious to learn more about the ins and outs of route negotiations amongst the gondoliers.
Gondoliers make decent money.
Yep, in the neighborhood of $150,000 each year. But they work hard. Imagine all that’s required to cater to the desires of diverse tourists. Then there’s the physical strength required to navigate some pretty significant traffic on the canals of Venice. And, oh yeah, the maintenance required to keep one’s boat in top-notch condition.
Finally, Venice welcomed its first female into the historically all-male gondolier ranks.
This happened in 2010. And even this woman’s father was dubious as to whether she was fit to assume the role. I’m not sure if additional women have joined this boys’ club. You can be sure I’ll be keeping my eyes open for new developments.
Maybe I’ll even be able to track down the first female gondolier and capture her at work. If so, I’ll be sure to share.
For now, I hope you enjoy these snippets of gondolier life. Consider this post an appetizer for a more in-depth story to come––hopefully, in the near future.
Awesome story Jed. The gondolier we hired when in Venice this past June gave us a little education on how hard he and other gondoliers had to work, study, and practice to become one. He also proudly told us about the first female gondelier too.
Thanks, Tom. That’s so cool you got a personal “class” about the life of a gondolier!
Makes me want to return to Venice pronto and check it all out myself! Lovely photos Jed.
Please do, and let us know. We’d love to see you guys! xoxox
I’ll be there a the end of the month and if I see the female gondolier I’ll let you know where she is based.
Thanks! Any info you can provide so I can find her and do a photo essay would be awesome!
Really interesting . I never new the histry behind gondoliers
Glad you like, Diane. More to come – hopefully soon!
Salve Jed! Questo e’ ottimo! Lo adoro! I took 2 gondola rides in Venice last year. When asked what my favorite thing was about Venice the gondola and the gondoliers are the first thing that pops into my head!
Salve Joee! Always great to hear from you! Maybe one day I’ll be able to do an in depth story on one or two gondoliers in particular!
Nicely done, Jed. I look forward to more thoughts and images. Do hope you find the woman who “paddled” into this world.
Thanks, Nancy! I’m hoping my Venice connections will lead me to a more in-depth story about life as a gondolier. Hope all is well!
I am heading to Venice next week. I’ll keep my eyes open for the lady in the ranks. Good for her!!!
Thanks for the insight and beautiful photos. Wonderful!!
Glad you like, Diane!
Super interesting! Thanks and I hope you can track down the lady gondoliers.
I’ll do my best!!!