I never thought of it during my trip to Venice a few years ago, but now that it’s mentioned, yeah. I don’t remember seeing any female gondoliers there. And that’s because there weren’t any. Until now.
Giorgia Boscolo — a mother of two — has earned the right to officially row tourists around the famous canals in a gondola. The gondolier tradition goes back around 900 years and the job was typically handed down from father to son. Nowadays there is a school that teaches students how to navigate the skinny boats and also teaches sailing law and English. The tests aren’t easy to pass; two other women were also in the course but didn’t make the cut.
While attending gondolier school is a fairly new thing, she isn’t completely breaking with tradition. Her father, now retired, used to be a gondolier as well, so the tradition is staying in the family. Boscolo, who is required to wear the blue-and-white striped shirt, black pants, and matching shoes, is limited right now to only filling in when a colleague wants to take a day off. But she’s still pretty excited:
I am so happy to be the first female gondolier. It feels as if I am in dreamland and I am delighted to have fulfilled an ambition I have always had as a child.
And what does her old school father think? “I still think being a gondolier is a man’s job, but I am sure that with experience Giorgia will be able to do it easily,” he said. And of course there have been the critics, who question whether a woman is strong enough to handle the gondolas. In response, Boscola said, “childbirth is much more difficult.”
[Photo: Carlo Alcos]