Gondolas are as much a part of Venice as the Eiffel Tower is a part of Paris. For hundreds of years gondolas have been the principle transport around Venice and the lagoon Venice is located in. In the 17th and 18th century’s it has been estimated that there were between 8,000-10,000 gondolas in the city, today just over 500 are registered with the Venetian government and nearly all of those are used for hire by the tourist who visit the city.The gondolier propels the gondola with a single oar by making a series of forward strokes followed by a compensating backwards one. The reason for the backward stroke is that the left side of a gondola is longer than the right, because of this, when pushed forward the gondola has a natural tendency to go to the right. The backwards stroke straightens it up.Gondolas are traditionally made using eight types of wood; fir, oak, cherry, walnut, lime, larch, elm and mahogany. The oar – or rèmo – is normally made of beech and is rested on a support – known as fórcola. The shape of the fórcula allows the oar to be positioned so the gondola can go forward slowly, quickly, turn, slow down or stop.The front of each gondola has an ornament callet a fèrro – means iron – which is used as a counter balance for the gondolier standing at the back. It is traditionally made of brass, stainless steel or aluminium however and comprises of 6 prongs which represent the six regions Venice was once divided into.
A visit to Venice is not a visit to Venice with a ride on one