1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Giving up on Going Gondoliera

DW staff (win)October 26, 2004

Accusing Venice's famous gondoliers of xenophobia and sexism, a German woman working on the Italian city's water busses has given up on a dream to steer one of the black vessels after failing the exam for the third time.

Wanna-be gondoliera Alexandra HaiImage: dpa

For years, Alexandra Hai has tried to enter the exclusive circle of Venice's 425 gondoliers, all of whom are Italian men. But after two earlier botched attempts, her third try didn't do the trick either.

While the 37-year-old passed the written exam, she failed to impress the exam commission with her practical skills: They had asked Hai to steer a gondola about 800 meters (875 yards) up and down the narrow Rio del Vin canal.

“There was a bit, under the Ponte dei Greci bridge, when we met a police launch coming the other way and there I didn’t manage to hold the boat quite right,” she told reporters.

Gondoliers must steer and row with a single oar from the stern. This requires strength, agility and years of training.

Hai, however, said that she believes that she has what it takes to become a gondoliera and accused the commission -- which has two female members -- of failing her because she is a German woman.

"The Venetians are simply not ready to allow a woman -- and a foreign, one on top of that -- to become a gondoliera," she said.

Simply not good enough?

But officials for Ente Gondola, the organization in charge of hiring new gondoliers, said that the decision to flunk Hai had nothing to do with her gender or nationality.

Gondeln in Venedig
Still a man's worldImage: AP

"She failed because she didn't do a good test. That's all," said Franco Vianello Moro, the president of Ente Gondola, adding that he felt sorry for her.

"She showed so much passion and love, she would have deserved it," he said.

Exam commission members also told reporters that they were surprised that Hai still made mistakes after years of practicing.

Be that as it may, Hai said she'd resigned herself to her dream not becoming reality.

"It’s useless," she said. "The first female gondolier in Venice will be someone else."