Hidden treasures

The Venice gondola: history of one of the citys symbols

Historical Curiosities
Miracolo_della_Croce_a_Rialto

The Venice gondola: history of one of the citys symbols

For those visiting Venice, the gondola is a not-to-be-missed attraction but few know its history. One needs only consider that the gondola was used as a means of transportation in the city already in the 14th century. Hard to believe? This is the proof.

In the painting ‘The miracle of the Cross in Rialto' of Vittore Carpaccio (1494), housed in the Venice Academy Galleries, a group of gondolas passing underneath the original wooden Rialto Bridge can be clearly seen.

The gondola in the painting is slightly different from the Venice gondola that we can see nowadays, as both the prow comb and the gilded decorations were not present - gondolas were also shorter.

It was only between 1600 and 1700 that the gondola became an increasingly common means utilized for the transport of private service and took on a shape similar to the current one. Noble families owned one or more de casada (or house) gondolas that they used for their business or leisure transport needs.

In the painting we can also see that each gondola uses a sort of cover, known as felze, used to provide shelter from the cold and unwanted gaze when crossing the canals.

So, next time you want to visit Venice in a gondola, remember that the boat you are using has more than 500 years of history! Unfortunately, you will be not able to rely on the felze to protect your privacy…

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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