In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own
The Venetian gondolier has been an ever-present presence on the Grand Canal since it was built in the late 18th century. For centuries he has been the man to summon a boat to his side, even when it was not his own. Today, however, the gondolier is only one piece of a larger puzzle that could help save Grand Canal history.
The Grand Canal is one of the world’s most spectacular and romantic waterways, built by Italian and Spanish boat builders centuries ago. Now the largest in Italy, it is one of the richest cities in Europe and showcases the best of the Venetian Renaissance.
From the top of the gondola, however, the beauty of the Grand Canal is more than just an aesthetic. It is a place where history and tradition live, even as the very history of the canal itself is being transformed.
A Young Gondolier Has Arrived
The gondolier is a Venetian tradition from the late 18th century that is still very much alive. To learn more, I’m joined on a tour of Venice by Stefano Montagnani. He is one of only two living gondoliers and his name goes hand in hand with the canal that he has spent over eight decades navigating.
When I arrive at the gondola, I find it has been transformed into a boat that looks like a floating palace. On the side, I spot a marble statue of a woman in a green Grecian gown, her blond hair falling down past her slim shoulders. I ask its artist, Giacinta De Vico, what inspired her to draw the image. She says she wanted to capture a sense of Venice’s history while at the same time creating a work of art.
The gondola’s artist, Giacinta De Vico, talks us through her inspiration. Photo: Courtesy of Stefano Montagnani
The gondola is an essential part of Venice