From our blog itVenezia.it
Tall, blonde, proud of “driving” a gondola. The first female gondolier in the history of this ancient activity is a Venetian (which is not surprising). A gondolier proud to have passed, ten years ago, the strict selection that authorizes to drive this typically Venetian boat. The gondola is a fascinating and difficult boat to carry (this is the term used in Venice to indicate the management of the vehicle), one of the symbols of the lagoon city to which the common imagination has always associated a male figure, that of the gondolier. Until she arrived.
Her name is Giorgia and she is the daughter of a gondolier
Giorgia Boscolo, who is also a mother of two children, in these ten years of activity has been able to adapt and live with a world that is still very masculine. A vocation born since she was a little girl because her father, Dante Boscolo, was also a gondolier.
In Venice there are about 650 gondoliers, so it is striking that in such a large number there is only one woman. This “gender” imbalance is actually more linked to a tradition than to a real foreclosure. Times have also changed in the world of gondoliers and, if a woman has the ability to pass the theoretical / practical tests, the desire and the strength to support the physical commitment related to work in a gondola, has the possibility to do it. Before Giorgia, a young German had tried. In her case the tests had not all been passed and therefore she did not have the opportunity to enter what is called the Gondoliers Association (ex Ente Gondola) which groups together all the gondoliers who work in gondolas for hire or ferry.
Gondolas for hire and ferry
The meaning of this distinction. Gondolas for hire are those used for the classic tour around the lagoon. Venetians use it on special occasions such as some weddings. Ferry gondolas are a bit larger than the other gondolas and are used to go from one bank of the Grand Canal to the other. They are the most used by Venetians, who normally use this service which is sometimes faster and more practical than the vaporetto. Giorgia Boscolo, the first gondolier, works on a ferry, that of San Tomà, which in this stretch of the Grand Canal connects the districts of Dorsoduro and San Polo to that of San Marco. The station opens at 7.30 and closes at 19.30. During this time, the gondoliers alternate work in the gondola with breaks on the shore. So for men as for women, they are destined to increase.
In the last competition announcement, two years ago, eight showed up. All women from the world of rowing, rowing champions (with participation also in the Historical Regatta) and teachers of that particular discipline which is Venetian rowing. The first tests were passed by two competitors who have yet to finish the competition. To participate you must be of legal age and have the minimum qualification required by law. It is also mandatory to attend a course at the Tourist Institute which provides – among other things – knowledge of the English and Spanish languages. Practical tests are added, obviously the most important. A rowing test in the bow of the gondola and a second test aft. “For those who will work on a ferry – explains the president of the Gondolieri Association, Andrea Baldi – the test rowing from the bow is the most important. For those who will bring the gondola for hire, the examination of the stern rowing is fundamental “. And the relationship between gondoliers and gondoliers? “No problem, we are in favor and we don’t have any kind of foreclosure.”
Being a gondolier is an ancient and difficult profession
It remains to be said that, whether man or women gondoliers, carrying a gondola is physically demanding and technically difficult. It is a boat 11 meters long and with an asymmetrical shape. Keeping it balanced is not easy, especially in the tight curves of the Venetian canals. But this ability, for many Venetian gondoliers, comes from the DNA.
From a thousand-year-old history, when the gondolas da casada were the private means of the Venetians of the time. And the gondoliers were their “drivers”. Gondola for hire is a more recent acquisition, while the ferry one represents one of the oldest transport services because the Venetians commonly used it when the vaporettos were not there. And what role did women play in all this? They did not carry gondolas, but also in ancient times they were skilled rowers of boats with different purposes and uses.