It's the gondolas and gondoliers. My pass through Venice last month left a distinct impression. It's clear that the thousands of tourists who descend on the town from cruise ships each day are driving out locals to the point where Venice is changed.
But! The gondola culture is still going strong. The gondoliers who pilot them are a sturdy and soulful lot who embrace their history.
Here's a few things you didn't know:
There are 425 licensed gondoliers. They have to pass an examination, both theory and practice, and then await acceptance. They are sworn to silence about the details of the tests. Five years ago came the appointment of the first female gondolier in Venice, Giorgia Boscolo, aged 26, and the mother of two small children. She follows in the footsteps of her father Dante. (Gondoliers always come from family businesses.)
Gondoliers wear strictly regulated clothing. In summer, they wear a white sailor’s shirt or a striped tee shirt (red or navy) and a straw boater (hat) with matching band. In the cold weather, a navy woollen reefer jacket of traditional style is worn. The gondoliers’ uniform shop is just next to the Rialto Bridge.
Here's a gondolier ending his day as a couple watches and relaxes.