The closest I get to being nautical is visiting Venice – I used to teach here, on and off, and now come back about once a year (although last year I was here three times, rather a record – lots of conferences) – so I’m afraid the only think I know about boats is connected to Venice. Therefore gondola, traghetto, sandolo, vaporetto – all variations on Venetian transportation. And, of course, the ultimate luxury of the speedboat taxi, zooming across the lagoon from the airport and then moving sedately down the Grand Canal to your palazzo door. Ah, the vexations of being an art historian that works on northern Italian Renaissance things.
The gondola is rather ubiquitously obvious, and really not much fun – the traghetto (which is what gondolas become when they retire) with two rowers, positioned aft and stern, is much more pointedly practical, simply crossing the Grand Canal to transport shoppers laden with market treasure. The sandolo is distinguished by its flat-bottomed shape, intended to troll the lagoon and deeper waters, steady and sure. The vaporetto, so named for the ‘vapore’ or steam by which it used to be propelled, is now rather monstrously motorized – I prefer the deeper-bottomed, smaller ones that chug out to the islands, churning up foam and lurching dangerously from side to side in the wake of larger holiday boats.
This morning we took just such a one to San Michele to visit Joseph Brodsky –