In the 1990's, Joseph and Camille Gibbons, the company’s founders, became intrigued with an American wooden boat builder, Thom Price, who ventured to Venice, Italy to assist the few remaining gondola builders in preserving this ancient and dying art. Under the instruction of one of the few masters, Maestro Daniele Bonaldo, Thom built his first gondola.
Joseph and Camille fell in love with the idea of having a custom-built gondola to share with the people of Boston. With blind faith, anticipation, perseverance and a boatload of their life savings, they signed their first contract with Thom for a custom built gondola. During construction, they were blessed with the opportunity of securing a second gondola built by Maestro Bonaldo in 1994. Naming the gondolas in honor of their mothers, the "Maria" and the "Firenze" were launched and blessed in Venice. The official launching and blessing is a very special part of Venetian culture.
Our First Gondola - Maria
Gondola di Venezia is very proud of what we feel is the most beautiful gondola in North America. This 36-foot majestic work of art was built on the island of Dosodoro in Venice, Italy. Everything about the gondola is true to the gondolas used in Venice. This gondola was built in the Squero (boat yard) of Maestro Daniele Bonaldo, one of three squeros remaining in the historic center of Venice. This gondola was built by Thom Price, an American preservationist and gondola builder who worked with Maestro Bonaldo.
Construction began in April of 2000 and progressed with the many details. We were very fortunate to be in Venice and be allowed to assist in the design of the very elaborate ornamentation. Many carvings can be seen on the deck of this gondola, complete with gold gilding. Exquisite hand-forged brass figurines or cavalli in the form of dolphins decorate the side rests. Brass railing and trim adorn the vessel from end-to-end. A stunning stainless steel ornament known as the ferro or iron protrudes from the bow, giving direction to its gondola.
In addition to the gondola builders, eight highly skilled craftsmen labored over this gondola. Unusual and very rare trades such as a remo and forcola maker produced the oarlock and a 14-foot beech oar. Blacksmiths, upholsterers, painters and carvers were also involved in creating this very rare and very special boat.
This boat was named Maria in honor of Camille's mother Mary at the opening ceremony.
Our Second Gondola - Firenze
During the creation of our first gondola, a local gondolier became very interested in our boat. With tremendous carvings and ornamentation, he simply fell in love with our boat. As a result, opportunity developed, allowing us to purchase his gondola, knowing that he would be next in line at the squero of Maestro Daniele Bonaldo. Our second boat is 36 feet long, and is extensively adorned with stainless steel trim fitting and ferro (bow ornament). Having spent only a handful of seasons on the water in Venice, this boat is still considered a baby in gondola life.
The previous owners maintained her black decks and beauty with extreme care. Considerable additions have been added and retrofitted to this stunning vessel. New upholstery, carvings, furniture, and brass ornaments now complement the 125-year-old cavalli (sea horses) that were graciously handed down to us from the previous owner.
This boat was named Firenze in honor of Joseph's mother, Florence at the opening ceremony.