Why gondoliers sing so well

Why gondoliers sing so well

It may be the most popular tourist resort in the world with towering cruise ships parked at one end, and the Grand Canal absolutely filled with ferries, water taxies, gondolas and cargo boats crawling from station to station, crossing from ‘bank’ to ‘bank’ and each somehow not colliding or dumping their precious cargo of tourists or wine into the turgid canal.

Venice has been for hundreds of years the perfection of salesmanship, selling ‘love’ in all its sensual and sexual splendor in a city half-drowned in water mostly insufficiently refreshed by the Adriatic Sea.

One could be a bit cynical about history and the effects of advertising. One has to remember that the reason Venice exists is because the locals ‘swam’ to the islands to escape Attila, whose warriors were invincible on land, but sank like stones in water.

And what results is the city the Venetians built over the ensuing millennium, once the invading hordes had retired to other pastures and the good folk could gather building materials. What results from this accident of history? What is so romantic about every street being flooded?

To the logistics pragmatist, Venice is a very inefficient site depending on small boats for all practical trade with its local suppliers. The canals are not exactly suitable for fishing so are not a source of fresh food and there can be no vegetable gardens, except perhaps lotus.

Of course, looking out to sea, as the Venetians were prone to do, enabled the progressive creation of the longest lived trading republic of Europe’s history, but a penchant for the merchants of this trading navy was to build their villas firmly planted on the solid soil of Veneto.

And now we return to this day, another hot day in Saint Mark’s square, where children play in the shallow pools on the marble, and a long queue of patient tourists snakes its way to the wooden planked walkway leading into the Basilica, the ‘bank’ for more gold leaf than all the other Venetian banks combined.

But for those of us who were taught the simple gospel that one should not worship idols, the reliquary holding leg bones does leave a bit of an empty patch in the memories of the glories of the Basilica.

Strolling out of the square over tiny bridges in back ’alleys’ barely wide enough for gondolas to pass, we view into ever more high-priced hotels, and note the absolute similarity in the financial proposition between the about 400 active gondolas, many of which, even today, lay empty. At €100 per ride, it seems that romance, as everywhere, is an expensive business for which there is always an over-supply of ‘love boats’ and hence competition.

The plucky gondoliers stroll back and forth on their craft to attract the flow of families and more often swooning couples willing to part with their cash. On occasions, these gondolier masters of love are found to serenade their guests, not necessarily with Venetian tunes, but more often with Italian opera arias and Neapolitan songs as they row with their single oar seemingly aimlessly from canal to canal.

Yet it is this little extra that attracts the applause from the nearby craft and the banks of the canal, and we guess ensures a steady flow of clients, as well as reinforcing the image of Venice and its gondoliers worldwide. Any advertising is good and so good that you must visit this 3D love meet.

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