Venice’s First Female Gondolier…Is A German Who Can’t Drive

gondolierI’m all for non-discrimination in the workplace, but from where I’m sitting it sounds like, in the case of Alexandra Hai, the Italian courts made a fundamental mistake. Apparently, after a 10-year struggle, this German woman has breached one of Italy’s oldest male-only clubs to become Venice’s first female gondolier. Although she can’t sing and has yet to pass her gondola-steering exam, a regional court recently ruled that she can ferry guests along the city’s famous canals.

During her ordeal, Hai claims she faced rude gondoliers and discrimination on the part of the Italian Gondola Association, which she believes conspired to exclude her from the profession — males-only since 1094. However, Roberto Luppi, president of the IGA, dismisses this, claiming, “It is very important to be able to steer a gondola. That is why we have the exam.”

According to the exuberant Hai, “I am delighted. It has been my mission. I promise not to wear jeans and I have a beautiful gondola, clean and built according to tradition.” While I applaud Hai’s persistence, I’m curious to know if tourists will prefer a gondolier who can pass their “driver’s test.”

[Thanks, Karen!]