The Prow and Joy of Venice

The Prow and Joy of Venice | ©2014


Il ferro (iron), the distinctive ornamentation at the prow of a Venetian gondola, the most forward part of the boat, serves as its front bumper protecting it from everyday nicks and scratches and the occasional collision with other craft occupying the cramped, shared space.

More than just a bumper, il ferro, next to the winged lion of St. Mark, is the most recognized symbol of the Most Serene Republic of Venice and describes in its design the City of Canals.

The Prow and Joy of Venice | ©2014

The Prow and Joy of Venice | ©2014 thepalladiantraveler.comThe metal band running down the face of the gondola has an “S” shape, representing the Grand Canal cutting its serpentine route through Venice.

The group of six prongs, or teeth, jutting out of the prow, represent the six sestiere (districts) of La Serenissima: Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo and Santa Croce.

The lone prong, pointing in the opposite direction of the other six, represents the island of Giudecca.

The Prow and Joy of Venice | ©2014 thepalladiantraveler.comThe elegant curve at the top of the design represents the cap of the Doge, the leader of Venice and its most serene republic for almost 1,100 years.

And, the semicircle, between the curve at the top and the prongs below it, represents Ponte Rialto (Rialto Bridge), the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal.

The gondola. It’s the PROW and JOY of Venice.

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props | ©Tom Palladio Images



  1. Very interesting, Tom. I am guessing that there is a lot of symbolism in the world that I don’t know about – and you just informed me of some that I wasn’t even aware I was missing. 😀 My life is now a little richer!

  2. Yet another thank you for these gems of knowledge, Tom. It had occurred that the prow might be useful in combat, but not all the other gems you revealed.

  3. Just back from a trip to Florence and Venice.
    I knew there was meaning to the symbol but couldn’t remember what it was. Dredging Mr Google helped me to find you. Thanks for the insight, I’ll be back. 😊 😊

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