The gondolas are a popular attraction in Venice, Italy. It has been theorized that gondolas have been used since around 697 AD, but only 1094 AD has been a confirmed year of early use due to documentation. The early need for gondolas were due to the lagoons in Venice. Because of the shallow areas and mud flaps, the boats were crafted to float easily in low water levels. In the earlier installments of these boats there were small, enclosed cabins called “felze” with wide uses for the passengers. They could shield from the rain or sun and protect the riders’ privacy. This was sometimes used to help criminals escape as well. And for now the tradition stands that men drive the gondolas with a single oar. Women are allowed to test to become gondola drivers, but so far none have passed these tests.
Gondolas are more complex than a simple boat. They are now designed to have the off center imbalanced look by weighing the boats against the drivers. They are also made from eight different types of wood (cherry, oak, walnut, elm, mahogany, lime larch, and fir). The oars are made from beech and each gondola has a rowlock to allow different types of maneuvers.
The most common uses for gondolas today are mainly tourist attractions, weddings, and quick crossings of the Grand Canal. Most of them have a dark finish and a clean, decorated look to them.