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Venice Italy Venice Gondolas

Venice is unique city, built almost entirely on water. Its mainland parts host only minor enterprises, working for tourist infrastructure, and all the historic monuments on the city are accessible only by water. Since banning of horses in 1392 all the activities were transferred onto water, and the expansion of pavements never exceeded pedestrian purposes.

Gondolas are the historic way to move around the city, long narrow oar-driven boats with elevated rostrum and stern, possessing great ability for maneuvers in narrow channels. It is estimated, that 200 years ago there were some 10,000 gondolas in the city. Nowadays there are approximately 500 of them, used mainly for tourist purposes. These sleek yet ornate boats typically are about 35 feet long and five feet wide, and weigh about 1,100 pounds. They travel about three miles an hour (same as walking) and take the same energy to row as it would to walk. They're always painted black (six coats) — the result of a 17th-century law a Doge enacted to eliminate competition between nobles for the fanciest rig, but each has unique ornamentation, fabrics, carving and gilding.

The gondola ride is the most romantic experience, especially if it is a serenade in a boat, sliding on calm waters in a warm summer evening. All gondolas are hand-made of precious wood, and adorned with artistic forging, gilding and plush cushions. Gondolas also have tents protecting from sun. There exist unique workshops in the city, specializing only on gondolas and preserving genuine medieval design of this most ancient and enchanting city transport. The rides can be booked in all main tourist areas. Major hotels also organize tours, sparing their guests the trouble of negotiating with gondolier. The routes include the standard Grand Canal ride and a number of quiet and romantic side canals. Especially fascinating (and expensive) rides are from 8 a.m., across dimly lit canals with shimmer of water and stars, utmost quietness and delicate music.

In high season it is better to book the ride in advance. The guests must ask for license, which is obligatory, just to stay secure, There are about 400 licensed gondoliers in the city, and the patent is often inherited.

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