Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fresh News Out of Venice - Gondoliera Passes Test

Thanks to Joe Gibbons in Boston for first alerting us to this.

A female gondolier has been officially confirmed. There are many news stories to be found on-line, but I think Nan over at the Living Venice blog covers it best.


Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

Interesting. The Living Venice blog entry suggests Giorgia will be assigned to traghetto work for a while:

"Of course, I still have the school for substitute gondoliers” (those who transport passengers back and forth across the Grand Canal), "and a host of other difficulties ahead. But I’ve made the first hurdle."

This sounds contrary to Reuters and big publicity news reports. I mean is there a traghetto exam? Nobody cared about Alexandra Hai when she worked on the traghetto for years, she didn't need to pass any formal exams to row back and forth across the Canal Grande, working in pair with a male gondolier.

Trying to fish for customers is a different matter. I would think the legendary strict exam is for the "freelancer" gondolier position, the one who works alone and can row to any place in Venice, if his or her customers desire to see a particular spot?

It would be interesting to get some insider clarification about this contradiction from venetian rowing circles (looking towards Greg)...

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

About the news header "Gondoliera Passes Test"

I'm not sure if "gondoliera" is the right word for a lady gondolier. According to the old dictionary "gondoliera = barcarolle", that is the rowing songs sung by gondoliers and the word has no female connotations.

(For example classical composer Franz Liszt has a "Gondoliera" piece in the middle suite of his "Years of Pilgrimage" collection.)

On the other hand blonde Giorgia will probably get a lot of mocking from angry male collegues, who will sing the fun barcarole "La Biondina in Gondoletta" every time she passes in front of them...

Gondola Greg said...

I've given this one a lot of thought, and I feel that it's not my place to write about people who I haven't talked with. I'm not the New York Times, but I still recognize that there are responsibilities associated with publishing.

As for the seeming discrepancy regarding training and traghetto work:
This article by The Guardian ( mentions that the training program in question was instituted in 2007.
Before that time gondoliers-in-training would gain experience on the traghetti.
It seems to me that gondoliering in Venice is like professional sports:
Before you can even try out for the team you need to be good at the sport.

Someone I respect, who lives in that world, told me that the gondolier test is so difficult that a regata champion once took it...and failed.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who has stepped up to take the test.

"Gondoliera" may or may not be the correct term for a lady gondolier, but it seems to have taken hold, and I hear it a lot, both in Venice and here in the US.

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

Thanks for the clarification, that would explain it! An article mentions the course was "only" six months long, so it's probably just a pre-requirement for stepping up to the next level, before the full commerical gondola licence can be obtained?

> the training program in question was instituted in 2007.
Before that time gondoliers-in-training would gain experience on the traghetti. <

This would imply Alexandra Hai's limited permissions to work were "grandfathered" from the previous era, even if she has no formal licence at all?

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

Lady gondolier story takes another turn.

Nan said...

Ciao a tutti!

Just a quick FYI, Georgia is on traghetto duty these days...last spotted at the stazio San Tomà. She cuts a striking figure, I must say. I was rowing a battello myself with a friend, we saluted her heartily.

There's room for all, yes?

Saluti da Venezia!