Earlier this week I was in the Bay Area and was fortunate enough to meet up with Angelino Sandri of Gondola Servizio, and see his newest gondola.
A friend of mine had seen her, and sent me a few teaser photos.
Knowing Angelino, I was certain that the boat would be impressive,
and she was.
He offered to roll her out into the sunlight,
and allowed me to take photos from every angle.
Like other boats on Lake Merritt,
this gondola came from Cantiere Dei Rossi.
Her container arrived in Oakland just a few days before Christmas.
Note to self:
I need to follow Angelino's example next Christmas.
We didn't launch her that day, but Angelino and I pointed her prow out over the water for a photo that was a little more natural.
The upholstery was done in a classic and traditional black,
with the fuzzy fringe that's become standard on gondolas.
The loft of the main seat looked to be somewhere between six and seven inches - making for a very comfortable ride.
With some boats the focus is on brass fixtures,
or deck carvings, or perhaps a unique floorboard color.
In this case...it's all about the wood.
Of course, all Venice-built gondolas are made of wood.
In many cases it's eight different kinds,
but so often that beautiful lumber is painted black.
Not so with this gorgeous gondola.
Like I said: wood.
Varnished wood, and LOTS of it.
The ferro choice:
which goes nicely with everything else - including the rails and deck plates.
On either side of the portela, there's a deck plate.
This shot displays the beautiful combination of colors and wood tones on this new gondola.
A dark wood portela, a light wood trasto da prua, gloss black paint, and mirror-polished stainless steel.
Looking straight down at the trasto da prua gives one a better appreciation for the artistry of the intagliador - Antonio Peroni - a guy who shows up with a bag of carving tools, and leaves masterpiece work in his wake.
Angelino is also an expert on wines, and has been involved with Italian wine for over a decade, so the statement on the stainless plate is appropriate.
"el vin l'e bon par chi lo sa bever"
As he explained it to me, it means:"Wine is good for those who know how to drink it"
At the stern of the vessel, I discovered non-skid at the poppa deck,
as well as the two trastolini boards located ahead of that area.
For the longest time I've thought that area needed something other than smooth paint that can get slippery in wet conditions.
The classic tailpiece ties together well with the stainless steel rub rail.
This was one of my favorite details of the boat.
the aft port side of the boat (that edge just to the left of the gondolier)
tends to receive the brunt of the punishment during docking and when the boat
is moored to poles and other things.
I've seen a number of fortification efforts at this spot on the boat,
but this is the most artful ones I've ever seen.
A strong stainless trim piece runs down the trailing edge of the boat.
The caenelo is often the place to look
if you're wanting to know who built a gondola.
Usually there's some identifying notches or other marks on the bottom edge of the vertical piece, but in this case the name of the establishment is displayed beautifully and prominently.
This is the decorative plate over the forward forcola buso.
The stainless steel on this boat was so brilliant,
that after the first glimpse of it, I asked Angelino
if it was stainless steel or nickel plated.
Looking closer, you'll see two different types of holes:
The round one is a tethering spot - suitable for either tying with a bowline or other loop knot, or simply feeding the end of a thick dockline through, and then tying an overhand knot big enough to prevent pull-through.
The other holes are smaller and harder to spot.
They form tiny triangular drain holes, which will prevent water from pooling in back corners and causing maintenance problems.
In the past, when so many things were made of wood,
people took the beauty of it for granted.
But these days we rarely see beautifully finished wood,
and quite often it's either a thin veneer or some simulated stand-in.
This gondola serves as a living example of what we've been missing.
While varnished wood has faded further and further away,
it glows brightly in this new Dei Rossi creation.
After all of the photos had been taken,
and we'd finished talking about all-things-gondola,
Angelino and I rolled his new beauty back into her boathouse portico.
She was launched and rowed in Venezia,
but has yet to grace the water stateside.
When she does, some lucky passengers
are bound to have a wonderful time.
I wonder if they will understand just how special this gondola is.
I told Angelino that he now has the finest gondola in North America.
With a sheepish smile he replied:
"well, I don't know about that, but she's definitely the healthiest".
As of this writing, the new gondola is at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.
The plan, however, is to launch her in Napa (California's famous wine region).
If any skilled gondolier is looking for a job,
and lives in the area or is willing to relocate,
Look up Angelino - you might just be lucky enough to row this beauty.
Congratulations to Angelino on the new arrival,
and my compliments to the Dei Rossi family for sending such a fine example of Venetian craftsmanship to the US.
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