While running around Venice in 2006, I noticed something new on a few gondolas. It wasn't so obvious as a gondola painted another color, but it was definitely different. It was a new seat design which, like just about any new innovation in the gondola world, has raised quite a few eyebrows. You can imagine the scene: old guys and traditionalists scoffing at the idea, while the younger guys and more progressive types think it's the greatest thing since sliced focaccia.
I managed to photograph two of them and they were very different from each other.
The first one I saw was at the traghetto San Toma.
As you can see from the photo above, the whole thing resembles one of those contoured park benches with thin strips of wood. The one at San Toma appeared to be made of plastic and was very well built. If I'd never seen a gondola before, I would've assumed that it was standard equipment. I'm guessing that it's not quite as comfortable as the traditional cushioned seats, but the owner of this gondola probably enjoys only having to wipe down plastic between cruises. Whenever I look at the photo, I think about how this seat looks like it was factory-made. It looks way too polished in it's construction.
The second one I ran into was in Bacino Orseolo. It looked like someone had put it together in their workshop. It looked as if it might have been built from wood and the fasteners were all visible. The seat looked a little bit older and upon further inspection, it seems like maybe it was designed to have an upholstered cover that drapes over.
In the above photo, you can see the difference between the traditional gondola seats and this new approach.
Take a good look my friends - it may be the future of gondola seating. I don't expect the private gondola owners to give up their upholstered seats, with all the fringes and such, but like it or not, in ten years, all the traghetto boats might come standard with a black plastic park bench.