Yes, She Exists! A Woman Gondolier.
Finally, real proof that Venice has a woman gondolier!
Talk about stumbling across a good story. Just two days ago, Simone and I had opted for an impromptu trip to Venice and a stroll around the city. I almost didn’t bring my camera. We’d disembarked from our train and decided on a loop that begin in the Jewish Ghetto. We’d crossed Campo di Ghetto Nuovo and were turning left to cross the bridge over Fondamenta dei Ormesini, and there she was, a woman gondolier!
If you’ve read my previous blog post about The Life of the Gondolier you’ll know that I’ve been on a mission to find Venice’s only woman gondolier––or gondoliera.
Passing the stringent exams to become a gondolier is no easy feat.
This is true regardless of gender. Still, Italy has no shortage of strong and determined women. I’m afraid centuries of patriarchy are still at work. Read this article from The Guardian for more perspective.
This rare find was a paparazzi moment.
Think of it. For months I’d talked myself into believing finding Venice’s singular woman gondolier would be searching for a needle in a haystack. Then, boom, there she was, and I swung into action. I watched her board a young happy couple into her gondola and then set about her work, smiling all the while. If only I’d had my 300mm lens versus my fixed grab-and-go 50mm. Still, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!
I can’t promise that the spot we came across her on the edge of the Jewish Ghetto is where you’ll find this gondoliera on a regular basis, but it’s worth a try. Next time we venture in that direction I’ll make sure I have the proper gondola fare in my pocket and I’ll hope she’s game for a more up-close-and-personal photo essay!
And, a bit of controversy…
Alex Hai, who is a transgender man, was recognized by the highest court in Rome as the “first female gondolier to operate in Venice” (source Wikipedia). I encourage you to read the Wikipedia synopsis which says he wasn’t granted an official gondolier license (more controversy). My understanding is that today he operates private tours.
So, I guess Alex owns the title of “first” but lacks the title of “official.”
Maybe one day more women will enter the ranks of the tightly-controlled guild of official gondoliers. Until then, if you’re hoping for a ride with a woman gondolier, you might have to plan well in advance and be persistent!