Gondolas are hand made using 8 different types of wood (fir, oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime) and are composed of 280 pieces. The bottom is flat, so that the gondola can navigate in shallow water. The left side of the gondola is made longer than the right side. This asymmetry causes the gondola to resist the tendency to turn toward the left at the forward stroke. The asymmetric structure enables the gondolier to row whilst standing up but only on the right hand side The oar or rèmo is made of beech wood, held in an oar lock known as a fórcola. The forcola is of a complicated shape, allowing several positions of the oar for slow forward rowing, powerful forward rowing, turning, slowing down, rowing backwards, and stopping. The ornament on the front of the boat is called the fèrro (meaning iron) and can be made from brass, stainless steel, or aluminium. It serves as decoration and as counterweight for the gondolier standing near the stern. The gondola is propelled by a person (the gondolier) who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke. Contrary to popular belief, the gondola is never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep. The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses granted after periods of training and apprenticeship followed by an examination which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola typically necessary in the tight spaces of Venetian canals. While in previous centuries gondolas could be many different colours, a sumptuary law of Venice requires that gondolas should be painted black. There are just over four hundred in active service today, virtually all of them used for hire by tourists. Those few that are in private ownership are either hired out to Venetians for weddings or used for racing.
This photograph is taken near the Plazza San Marco with the San Giorgio Monastery in the background.