The non-official gondolier

Back in 2009, Giorgia Boscolo was officially appointed as the first female gondolier in Venice, ending 900 years of male domination in this ancient profession.

But, another female had her eyes set on this prize. She is Alexandra Hai, who did not pass muster, despite having spent 12 years trying to become a gondolier. Although she has failed the gondoliers’ test several times, she won a court battle to be allowed to ferry hotel guests without an official  licence, and is now employed by a hotel in Venice to do just this.

One day, I caught a fleeting glance of Ms Hai, in her distinctive white uniform,  accompanying a hotel guest. I haven’t seen her in her gondola, Pegaso. Maybe next visit it’ll happen.

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22 Comments

Filed under Venice

22 responses to “The non-official gondolier

  1. Victoria

    This was a fascinating post with the photo of the elusive gondoliera.

    Apparently Alex Hai has taken the series of exams several times and failed on one part or another – I am wondering if this has more to do with her being a foreigner, rather than being a woman. She is obviously intelligent and determined.

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  2. Well Yvonne, it seems obvious that they don’t want more than a token female gondolier in Venice. 😦

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  3. Bravo to girl power in Venice. I had no idea about this aspect. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Pat

    Learn something every day! I never knew they had women gondoliers! Any idea what they get paid?

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    • I guess Giorgia Boscolo would be paid whatever the going rate is for a gondolier. I don’t know what they are paid when they’re working on the traghettos, and I don’t know if part of what they charge for a gondola ride goes back into a mutual fund. Somewhere online, we’d find the answers, Pat.

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  5. We stayed at the Luna Hotel Baglioni last time we were in Venice and didn’t see any female gondoliers as far as I recall. I think we need a return visit to check. Do they have to be able to sing too? 😉

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    • I think they have to be able to sing, play the accordion and text on their mobile phone, all at the same time, to pass the test, Andrew! 🙂

      Hey, that’s a neat hotel to stay at.

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    • Pat

      I stayed at the Luna on my very first trip to Venice back in the late ’70s! I was on a group tour so didn’t know how pricey per night it was until I checked it out about 7 years ago. They had really fixed up the place though but yes, those prices are sky high! Can’t beat that location though…

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  6. PhilJ

    We used to see Alexandra Hai quite a bit as she worked quite close to where we used to live (she was/is a regular at the Cafe Brasilia). We’ve never seen her actually on the job though. We usually referred to her as “the pretendey gondoliera” because, well, that’s basically what she is.

    Signora Boscolo, on the other hand, has rowed us across the Grand Canal on a traghetto numerous times. She seems nice, and seems to have the respect of her co-workers. Somehow, despite an arduous job, she maintains immaculate nails. More power to her…she’s doing things the hard way.

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  7. The test must be tough.

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    • They have written and practical tests. “They also have to demonstrate perfect knowledge of Venice’s canals and the city’s landmarks in a series of practical and written tests, which include exams in English and sailing law.”

      Giorgia has 2 children, her father was a gondolier.

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