What’s black, banana-shaped, and glides down the canal with ease?
It’s hard to imagine Venice without its gondolas. How did these boats come to be the trademark transportation of Venice?
In this lesson produced for TED-Ed, I detail the history of the gondola, explaining why these boats were needed, the painstaking process by which they were made, and why they have slowly begun to fade from the once-crowded canals.
What are your thoughts and questions about the history of the Venetian gondola? Drop a comment in the box below. I love to hear your stories!
Welcome! I am an art historian and historical novelist. I earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and have taught college students in the United States and in Italy. My Authentic Arts guidebook series has been leading travelers off the beaten path for more than 20 years. As a historical novelist, my passion is bringing the stories of art history to life. I am the USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of THE NIGHT PORTRAIT, THE STOLEN LADY, THE GONDOLA MAKER, and other novels. Thank you for checking out my books and courses!
Brava Laura ! What a great visual addition to your wonderful book. I will be in Venice next May and cannot wait to see gondolas again and possibly visit a squero in Dorsoduro, where we will be staying ! Few objects in life are so painstakingly made.
Lorraine, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you!
I loved your gondola film! Simple, easy to follow and amusing. Thank you for it.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!
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At 0.30, there’s a gondola from the 15th century gliding by, in the background. Someone has built a replica, you might see it moored on the Cannaregio Canal, or being rowed by 2 fellows.
Yes, I have seen that boat! So beautiful and evocative. Thanks for the memory. 🙂
Very interesting! Despite visiting Venice several times, we still can’t believe we haven’t sprung for the $100+ US for a gondola ride (though we love hopping on the vaporetto just for the full ride of the Grand Canal).
It’s definitely one of those things you should spring for at least once in your life!
Don’t think the guy who cheers a prima donna with BRAVO! is a boor. He’s actually right. Even Italians do so. French folk at public spectacles employed the word they heard in Italy, for a good, big bad bull at a time when the bullfight was still practiced in Italy. As for “Brava Laura!”, in using the feminine form BRAVA, Lorraine is in step with Italians under the age of 60 who use the B word in accord with the sex of the person being praised, but this is a newer usage and originated as an error. The French picked up “BraVO!” and used it as an invariable word, accented on the last syllable. . This is because the international interjection expressing approval is from the French borrowing of an Italian original. See: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=630387. I.(A ragazza said to be buona is good in bed.) As for una brava ragazzza, un bravo ragazzo: these are compliant, well-behaved kids, not star performers. See 1977 article on BRAVO in my book Papers on Language Theory and History I. To test my thesis, just Google “Bravo, Signora!” You’ll find innumerable hits.
Thanks, Peter, for clarifying, and yes, you are right! It should be BRAVA! 🙂
Laura, was an interesting quick lesson on gondolas! I have been to Venice, many years ago. I have a Masters Degree in Art History and taught at two different colleges for 15 years. My husband would plan European trips for us so that I could see all those places in the textbooks! When in Venice, we decided to forego the gondola ride . . . quite expensive. I’m a bit sorry we didn’t spring for it then. Oh, well . . . Anyway, I got to absorb myself in all the Titians , San Marco, and all the other lovely Venetian hotspots.
Nancy Mitchell, [email protected]
Thank you for sharing your experience, Nancy! I hope you get back to Venice soon! –Laura
Your brief but fascinating history of the Venetian Gondola is of peak interest for me as an avid boat designer who desires to learn more. I have purchased your book The Gondola Maker. I can’t wait to receive it. I adore hand crafted water vessels but have not given thought to the Gondola. Fascinating boat. I wish to replicate a wooden model of the Gondola at what scale I am not certain. Perhaps 3/4″ = to a foot. Aside from my passion for historical water vessels your showing was wonderfully understood and has increased my knowledge for a boat I wish to see resurrected. Thank you so much for sharing and I cannot wait to receive my copy of The Gondola Maker. Best wished on your creative and historical journey.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, John! Thank you! –Laura
Laura, this was quick interesting educative lesson. Being a meusologist I love to learn the background of the people and places and history. A beautiful popular Bollywood song from 1979 (The Great Gambler) was shooted in Venice on Gandola with very popular Bollywood actors. I always fantasized the scene and dreamt that one day I will enact the same song while taking gondola ride. My dream came true in 2019 when I traveled to Europe with my family and visited all the hotspots in Rome, Venice (stayed in a historical house near the church), Tuscany and Greece. We enjoyed and loved all the towns, wine, architecture and the food.
Now I can’t wait to read all of your books! Thanks.
Thank you so much, Richa! Happy reading! 🙂
Very interesting Laura, enjoyed the short clip. Want more. Haven’t been to Italy in ten years. Looked up my ancestry and correspond with my cousins via text. Thank You. Angela Santacroce-Raeuchle
Do you know why gondoliers wear striped shirts? Is that a tourist thing? And, how many gondolier makers are there today?
Hi Penny! Yes, the striped shirt thing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Since the 1950s, gondolas and gondoliers transformed quite a bit as tourism began to grow. Thanks for reading! –Laura