A Quiet Moment For Gondola Pilots

John Santoro Photography

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A couple of gondoliers take a moment to chat between fares.

The first mention ever of an Italian gondola was in Venice in 1094 and, of course, there have been gondoliers as long as there have been gondolas - so it’s one of the oldest professions in the world.

Driving an Italian gondola has always been very much a ‘closed shop’.  The gondolier’s license used to be passed from father to son, or if there was no son to another male family member.

These days it’s even more difficult. Every gondolier must belong to the thousand-year-old Gondolier’s Guild which is strictly controlled. 

He must find an experienced gondola driver to act as mentor, attend four hundred hours of instruction, and later pass a rigorous examination which tests not only physical endurance but navigational skills, knowledge of other languages and, most importantly,  knowledge of Venice’s culture and sights.

Collections: A Passage Through Italy

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