The fourth gondola in the group passing under my bridge that day was by far the nicest.
The first three could have easily been "fleet boats" - owned by a cooperative, and not cared for in the way an individually owned boat is.
Boat number four was unmistakably "owned", and cared for by someone who loves her.
A crisp, shiny black paint job was contrasted by gold leaf accents and high-grade parecio.
As more of the gondola came into view, I could see bright red floorboards that did not appear worn (a typical problem on a boat that is busy).
The cavalli were gold-plated; not something you see on a "fleet boat".
If there was any question as to whether this was a privately owned gondola, the scimier removed all doubt. This decorative seat-back adornment had lots of gold leaf, a central red shield bearing the letters "FF", a small doge hat sat atop the shield, and there were two cherubs holding the shield.
The pusioli had gold leaf, the interior was framed by fodra boards with gold leaf, and the rope and pom-pom decorations connecting the cavalli with their smaller couterparts were black and gold and looked great.
This was a nice gondola.
I found myself experiencing a bit of "gondola envy".
The one thing that seemed out of place was the gondolier. He was too young!
Most gondolas of this caliber are piloted by established gondoliers who are at least in their late twenties.
This guy, with his big fly sunglasses and wood-bead necklace and bracelet reminded me of a high-schooler or college freshman. Don't get me wron, he didn't look bad, or less-than-presentable, he just looked like maybe he'd borrowed his dad's boat. The facial expression seemed to point in that direction too.
Since this was the last in the group, I caught a few shots as they continued up the canal towards La Fenice.
The gondolier may have looked young, but he knew his rowing, and his passengers were having a great time. What more could you ask for in a gondolier?
The forcola was well-oiled, a spare remo with black wrap rested on the back, and he had a fresh Giuliana Longo hat with black ribbon in the deck.
More proof of pride-in-ownership was evidenced by the fact that his blue canvas deck covers had been removed and neatly folded, not just untied and pulled to one side. I know that's a common practice in Venice, but I've never cared much for it.
As all four gondolas continued to glide up the Rio Santa Maria del Giglio, I studied them, appreciating the various details of each one.
Each gondola is beautiful in her own way.
The differences make each uniquely graceful boat even more special.