“The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its gliding movement, as a serpent. It is twenty or thirty feet long and is narrow and deep like a canoe; its sharp bow and stern sweep upward from the water like the horns of a crescent…. The bow is ornamented with a battle axe attachment that threatens to cut passing boats in two.” Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’
In 2003 I visited Venice for the second time and took a ride through the canals in a gondola. At €80 for fifty minutes it was horrifically expensive of course but it was something that had to be done. To be fair to the gondoliers, they invest a great deal in their boats, about €20,000 for a traditional hand-built wooden gondola with a life expectancy of about twenty years. They need to earn the bulk of their annual income in a few short tourist months and the cost of living is high in Venice because it is an expensive city in one of Italy’s wealthiest provinces.