It is not that there are no female gondoliers, although that’s how it was for 10 centuries. In 2010, Giorgia Boscolo became the first woman officially recognized by the Associazione Gondolieri di Venezia, or Venice Gondolier’s Association. Now, of the 433 licensed gondoliers at work in Venice, five are women, according to Andrea Balbi, the president of the gondolier’s association.
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There is, in addition, Alex Hai, a German-Algerian transgender man who runs a private gondola service under the auspices of a hotel. Mr. Hai took the licensing test before transitioning to male in 2016, but did not pass it, Mr. Balbi said.
That test is open to all, Mr. Balbi insisted. “Our job is for everyone — male, female, transgender, maybe some other kind of gender we don’t even know about,” he said. Yet breaking into this signature profession is not so simple.
Nicolo Casarin, 37, was well established as a boat captain on the city’s waterbus system when he finally passed the gondolier’s test on his fourth try. “I started when I was 19, and I got my license at 34,” Mr. Casarin said. “It’s super-hard to get in, almost impossible if there is not someone in your family in the business.”