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August 16, 2010

Struth! Venice's first female gondolier

STRUTH !    

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says its taken 900 years, but Venice has finally got its first-ever fully-licenced female gondolier.

Blonde mother of two, Giorgia Boscolo (24) last week passed her final exams after 400 hours of instruction that included propelling a traditional 11-metre, 500-kilogram gondola with a single oar, memorising the names of the extraordinary maze of hundreds of canals around which Venice is built, the quickest routes from point-to-point and to major landmarks, and even having to learn "tourist English."
 
Mrs Boscolo was tested by a panel from the 425-strong Gondoliers' Guild which has been custodian of the ancient skills and traditions of the gondolier since being formed in the year 1094 – and which has previously rejected a number of female applicants, including most-recently a local Venetian and a German-American who has been fighting for twelve years to get a licence (and who recently won court approval to work for a private hotel ferrying its guests only.)

Mrs Boscolo said she learnt her love of working gondolas from her father who spent 40 years on the boats, and said that as a child she would rather spend the day with him on the waters of the canals than playing with friends.
 
And she said that when questioned by her examiners about her physical ability as a woman to propel the long and heavy craft, she told them: "I've given birth to two children, and that was far more difficult and painful."

Gaining her licence means Mrs Boscolo is now qualified to don the traditional white-and-blue striped shirt, black trousers, straw hat and regulation gondoliers' shoes.

And all that remains is to see if she will serenade her passengers with "O Sole Mio" as she ferries them around the canals of Venice, or if she'll have some other surprise up her sleeve.

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