17 February 2008

La gondola

No matter how long I live in Venice, I do not ever expect to ride in a gondola. Don’t get me wrong – I adore the gondole. And certainly the gondolieri. They are as much a part of La Serenissima as the Grand Canal itself. They lift my heart everyday. I hope they will always enjoy the city’s full protection so they may cut and glide through the blue-green waters of the lagoon and canals in their elegant fashion forever.

The boat itself with its low-slung, fluid silhouette is a gorgeous thing, the watercraft equivalent of a swift, sleek, black horse. In this photo you see many such beauties moored in the Bacino Orseolo, near Piazza San Marco – a sort of parking lot for gondole. When they are crowded together like this, and their hatchets bob and their hulls pitch, they remind me of nothing so much as high-spirited horses in a corral. I cannot think of a more romantic mode of travel. (But I do think it’s a shame that they no longer use the felze – the little attached cabin that once sheltered passengers and afforded them complete privacy on their water journeys. Imagine the possibilities!)

And the gondolieri! Well, their charm is legendary, and many of them are shockingly handsome, not to mention tantalizingly fit from all that rowing. Often I am touched by their warbling serenades. I know their songs would seem ridiculous anywhere else, but here in the lantern light beside a dark canal… (sigh!) And when I am a very old woman, I will still remember some of the delicious things a few of them have said to me in an effort to get me to loosen my… purse strings.

Still, I have never wished to ride in Venice’s unique but painfully expensive form of transportation. I would feel quite foolish, I think. Unless, of course, someone were proposing to me. In which case, I hope that fellow would know enough to have the gondoliere take us under the Bridge of Sighs just at midnight when the Marangona tolls. Legend says I could then be certain his promise would endure forever. But otherwise, I am already Venetian enough to be a snob: le gondole are strictly for tourists!