Gondola Dockyards: the “squeri”

The gondola is the most famous boat in Venice and also a real work of art.

The gondola is the most famous boat in Venice and also a real work of art.

Making a gondola takes 500 hours hand work made by expert craftsmen who work in small dockyards called “squeri”. Today only four of them are still active, like the one in San Trovaso in the area of Dorsoduro. This dates back to the 17th century and is the oldest in the city. It looks like a mountain house because once the families of the “squeraroli” came from the Dolomites. 

Characteristics of a Gondola 

gondola is made with the wood of eight different trees because each one has a specific function. A finished gondola is 11 meters long and weighs about 600 kg. Its characteristics make it a unique boat: it is asymmetric to counterbalancing the weight of the gondolier who rows standing in the stern and using only one oar. 

Once all gondolas were colorful and decorated but later it was established that they had to be black like carriages since this was a soberer colour. 

A Strange Ornament 

In the bow there is “el fero”, an ornament made of iron with seven prongs symbolizing the areas of the city (Santa Croce, Cannaregio, San Marco, San Polo, Dorsoduro y Castello) and the Giudecca island. The curved top reminds of the Doge’s cap while the S-shaped central part stands for the Grand Canal. This object is not only an ornament as with its weight of about 20 kg it helps to balance the weight of the gondolier. 

The Gondola Today

Although in ancient times the gondola was the main means of transport of Venice, today it is only a tourist boat and every day the gondoliers with the typical striped sweater take tourists from all over the world for a stroll along the canals telling them the story of the city or singing a romantic serenade at the sunset.

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