The gondola originated in Venice, Italy – a city on a series of six islands at the edge of the Adriatic Sea. The “streets” of Venice are actually waterways for boat traffic, making this city one of the most interesting in the world.
Of all the differing watercrafts in Venice, the gondola is the most well-known. It is an ancient row boat, evolving over the last 1,000 years to become the sleek, graceful shape you see today. Its unique, asymmetrical design allows just one oarsman to navigate the narrow Venetian waterways using a single oar.
Brief History of the Gondola:
- A boat called a gondola is mentioned in a letter from a Venetian Republic official.
- Gondolas appear in Italian paintings by Carpaccio and Bellini. Interestingly, the manner of rowing depicted is the same as that used by gondoliers today.
- Gondolas are fashioned with the ornate ornamentation popular in the Baroque period. In addition to the fanciful ironwork, gondola design also takes on a broader stern and an increase in rocker at the boat's bottom, improving its position in the water and the gondolier's steering position. There are also stories of the gondola proving its seaworthiness by being rowed into battle on the Adriatic Sea.
- Gondola popularity soars, with an estimated 10,000 gondolas being rowed around Venice.
- A precise architectural drawing of a gondola is created by a naval artist. From this work we know that the 18th century gondola has almost the same dimensions as the gondolas we row today, except the design is still symmetrical.
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- The element of asymmetry is brought to the gondola design, making the boat perfect in the eyes of gondoliers. Unfortunately, at the same time the gondola reaches perfection, steam-powered boats reach the waterways of Venice. The usage of gondolas begins to decline.
- John Kerschbaum brings his first authentic gondola to the waters of Stillwater, Minnesota.
- Gondola Romantica/Gondola on St. Croix begins to row lovers along the St. Croix River in Stillwater.
- The romantic, historic experience of a gondola cruise continues in the Midwest, far from the Venetian waterways of Italy.