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Venice says no to fiberglass gondolas

City laws and tradition say only real wood can be used

07 April, 13:15
Venice says no to fiberglass gondolas (ANSA) - Venice, April 7 - An offer from a Brindisi shipbuilder to produce fiberglass gondolas for this lagoon city has been flatly rejected by the city agency responsible for the sector, the Nuova Venezia daily reported on Wednesday.

The offer came from Giuseppe Gioia's Cantieri Navali Brindisi shipyards which said it was putting the final touches on a prototype gondola which was an exact replica of the original in wood but made with weather-resistant and easy-maintenance fiberglass.

According to the Venice Ente Gondola, the boats which have become a symbol of the lagoon city "can only be made of wood and built by our artisans using traditional techniques".

This also because a city ordinance prohibits the flat-bottomed rowing boats being made from anything other than wood, eight different types of which are used in its construction.

A traditional gondola costs more than 25,000 euros to make, while a fiberglass one would cost much less.

The idea of a fiberglass gondola was also rejected by the head of the Venice gondoliers' association who branded the idea as "outrageous".

"We gondoliers will oppose this in every way possible. The idea of a 'plastic' gondola is unthinkable and I'm sure the whole world would agree," Aldo Reato added.

Aside from tradition and city regulations, Reato said the idea of a fiberglass gondola was impractical because "this is not some amusement park, this is Venice!".

According to Reato, either the Brindisi shipyard did not understand the reality of Venice or it was out to seek some free publicity.

"We gondoliers are a part of this city's history, one of its symbols in Italy and the world. We do not intend to be an advertising vehicle for anyone, in this case or any other one," he said. Four years ago the Ente Gondola moved to bring gondolas back to basics by having them shed the glitzy trappings which had been tacked on to lure tourists.

Under the new rules, statuettes on prows and sterns were cut in number and size and stripped of the gold leaf that had previously crept.

Seat backs and cushions must to be made of plain leather, outlawing fancier materials.

Colour-wise, gondoliers have a choice of black, dark blue or purple for their interiors.

All other parts of the boat must be black.

A typical gondola is made from pine, oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime wood, while its oar is made from beech wood.

The left side of the gondola is longer than the right side so the boat will not go leftwards at the forward stroke and thus keep on a straight course.

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