There is no escaping the elegant beauty of the gondola in Venice, whatever the time of day. Here I found them resting in their stalls like horses in the early morning. Still covered up against the night air, they begin to get restless as the sun rises higher above the water. Their noses rise and fall impatiently with the rolling waves, eager to be uncovered and released. They have roamed the canals for hundreds of years, carrying everyone and everything imaginable between docks and buildings, palaces and churches, shops and home. Like the black cabs of London they epitomise the city, and sweep us back into history even as they move us forwards and through the canals and backwaters of this enchanting city.
The gondoliers themselves were also known as secret keepers, because they were renowned for revealing nothing about what happened aboard their boats. My imagination runs wild with tales of secret rendezvous, sweeping cloaks and masks, intrigue and mystery on the water. Watching the gondolier at work is an essay in mindfulness, as he reads the currents and waves of the canals and navigates the tightly twisting passages of the city’s heart. Balanced perfectly on the wildly rising and falling stern of the gondola, his oar sweeps and stirs the hidden depths of the green waters. You can be transported unnoticed from one watery doorstep to another, without stepping foot on a pavement. Nothing says mystery like Venice, and nothing says Venice like a gondola.