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 began 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. 

Woman gondolier, ItalyWise

© 2018 Jed Smith

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!



By |2019-04-11T11:24:09+02:00June 27th, 2018|A Romance with Venice, Exploring the Veneto|15 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Novelia June 28, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Buongiorno Jed, here I am capturing the moment, it is a pleasure to seat down and write a comment on your new post. All your stories are so interesting. I feel so involved every time you write, making me feel like a was there with you and Simone seeing this woman doing her work in such amazing way. This for Venice is like a cherry on the cake. BRAVA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and BRAVO you. Until nex time Novelia

    • Jed June 29, 2018 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, bella! Thank you for cheering me on, always! Baci, Jed

  2. Gaye HART June 28, 2018 at 8:18 am - Reply

    Glad you have found her! I’ve been looking out for her too.

    • Jed June 29, 2018 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      I hope she’s a regular in that location so that people like you can find her as well!

  3. Robin June 27, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Well done Jed. Loved this, and your photos!!

    • Jed June 29, 2018 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Robin! I’m always on the hunt for a good story, written and visual!

  4. Joe June 27, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Ha! Nice going Jed. A couple more of these and you might add investigative reporter to your resume! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jed June 29, 2018 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joe. There are so many stories here waiting to be discovered and told!

  5. Nicole June 27, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Your pictures are fine without your super duper lens….what a gift you stumble upon her…..hope you get to actually meet her some time.

    • Jed June 27, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      I’ll confirm her usual spot and maybe we can do a ride together when you’re here next!

  6. Jeff Mathieu June 27, 2018 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    i heard a good podcast about Alex, thanks for sharing.

  7. Tom June 27, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    A well done radio program on the woman:

    • Jed June 27, 2018 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Tom, thanks for sharing!

  8. Kathryn Smith June 27, 2018 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Wow! What a story! Congratulations on your lucky happenstance.

    • Jed June 27, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      More to come, hopefully!

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