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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 03:01 GMT 04:01 UK
Gondoliers told to keep it simple
Venice gondola on the Grand Canal
Gondoliers face losing their licence if they don't comply
Venice's gondoliers have been told to return the city's famous vessels to a traditional frills-free appearance.

The city's gondoliers association has drawn up guidelines aimed at eliminating "a tasteless and tacky free-for-all".

It wants to bar "the garish cushions, multi-coloured seating and flashy decorations which have appeared in recent years" to attract tourists.

"I'm glad tradition has prevailed," association chief Roberto Puppi said.

"It shows gondoliers are serious about keeping up the high standards of their calling," he said on Tuesday.

"Clients often prefer a flamboyant craft, but the boat has a history and characteristics that must be upheld.

"Once, this would not have been necessary. The respect for tradition was implicit; it was a question of culture. But times change.

"We are in Venice, not Las Vegas," he added.

Gondolier training

Under the new rules, gondolas must reduce the number and size of statuettes on display and strip them of the gold leaf on them.

Seat backs and cushions will have to be made of plain leather, while black, dark blue or purple will be the colours of choice for the interiors. The rest of the boat must be black.

Ceremonial boats used for occasions such as weddings may still carry ornate wooden cabins.

"But the common... gondola has to recover characteristics in keeping with its history and iconography," Mr Puppi said.

The measures still have to be approved by the city council, but if they are passed, the city's 400-odd gondoliers face losing their licence.

New apprenticeships covering gondola history, Venice's history and art as well as boating skills, are also being introduced for the city's would-be oarsmen.

The six-month courses are "aimed at making sure new generations aren't just skilled boatsmen but also know their culture".

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