Woman causes storm on Venice's Grand Canal

Reply Thu 5 Apr, 2007 12:01 am
A German could become the first foreign ... and female (!) "gondolier" in Venice.
If there weren't males ...


Woman causes storm on Venice's Grand Canal

Kate Connolly in Berlin
Thursday April 5, 2007
The Guardian

For more than a thousand years it has stood as an untouchable male bastion. But now a German woman has made waves on the waterways of Venice after becoming the first female - and first foreign - gondolier.
Alexandra Hai had caused a "storm on the Grand Canal", the German media reported with glee, by securing legal approval from a Milan court, allowing her to ferry guests from three Venice hotels.

She told Die Welt that her fight had been driven as much by her desire to challenge the male-dominated Venetian tradition as by her long-term desire to navigate a gondola.

"The Venetians are simply not so advanced as to want to accept women and foreigners," she said.
Ms Hai, 35, said that now she was under pressure to carry out the job more expertly than her male counterparts, many of whom have protested at her court victory. "I have vowed to never wear jeans, and my boat is beautifully clean and built according to tradition," she said. "I don't want to give anyone cause to question me."

But she has not won the right to be called a "gondolier". The 425-strong Society of Gondoliers has said it will fight to have Ms Hai's licence revoked, claiming that she is incapable of operating her 10m-long gondola weighing 100kg, having failed her test three times. "I was just nervous," Ms Hai said, pointing out that she passed the test at the fourth attempt.

Roberto Luppi, the chairman of the Society of Gondoliers, was quoted in the German press as saying that she was not up to negotiating the "narrow canals, the increasing amount of traffic, and the tidal changes".

The city of Venice has said it will support attempts to appeal against Ms Hai's right to navigate her gondola in the world's most famous waterways.
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