The Story of La Gondola

Published 03/03/2013

Buon giorno!  Until now I haven’t given much attention to the most excellent part-time job I’ve ever had: Gondolier at La Gondola Providence!  It’s certainly not due to lack of awesomeness, I’ve just never really written anything where rowing and singing have been relevant to the story.  Plus, I wanted to give LGP its own unique link.  So here goes:

It was a beautiful day in May 2011, my birthday as a matter of fact, and it started off special.  I was working with Lemay Contracting and my workmanship was improving (if you ask the boss man, my father-in-law-to-be at the time, he’d probably say that was because it would be impossible for my skills to get worse!).  Since the boss and his top employee had another project going, I was left alone to finish a ceramic tile floor and they even gave me the radio!  It was a great day at work and I did a pretty damn good job by my standards.

The weather was perfect on that Friday so I decided to capitalize by strapping my kayak to the roof and heading towards Providence for a couple of hours of paddling.  As I drove North I noticed some seriously ominous clouds but, as you may have read, treacherous conditions don’t always deter me from kayaking.  So on I went to the Community Boat Launch to start my journey.  I was stopped by someone there who said it was a private boat launch; to which I responded “that’s a pretty misleading sign you have there!”  He laughed and said he wouldn’t want to be out in a kayak given those crazy dark and fast-moving clouds.  I threw my kayak back on the roof and launched it across the river in East Providence.

An hour or so of lazy paddling led me to the Washington St bridge on the Woonasquatucket River where I paddled alongside a man in a black and white striped shirt rowing a gondola.

“How do I get a job like that?”

“You talk to me!”

“Are you hiring?”

“As a matter of fact we are!”

After my first ever nautical interview with Marcello (turns out that’s his gondolier alias but at first I just thought he was super authentic), we exchanged contact info and I started training.  The training process took about 2 months (or 20-30 hours) of getting the stroke down (it’s way more technical than expected but we’re all about developing skills here), learning the tendencies of the river, getting in and out of trouble (most of the time intentionally), and docking.  There were times when I was tired from roofing/training all day, humbled/discouraged with the slow or sometimes insignificant progress, or just wanted to focus my time on growing the young LbF or planning the wedding or selling the condo or renovating the new house, but I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  Plus, our initial encounter was so serendipitous that there was no way I could give it up!  But what about the singing aspect of the job requirements?

“You don’t have to be able to sing, just willing.”  Marcello advised.

“Ok then I guess I qualify!”

Once I earned my stripes I rowed trips with family members and close friends on board who wouldn’t freak if I crashed or capsized.  After about a handful of fairly smooth voyages, I started taking paying customers by the end of that summer.

Before she was the First Laidy she was the First Gondola Guinea Pig!

Before she was the First Laidy she was the First Gondola Guinea Pig!

My last trip of the season was on my wedding day!  Talk about a welcome distraction!  I rowed my ass off at the Gloria Gemma Waterfire from roughly 4p – 1a and got home around 0230 on 10/9/11.  I may have gotten the best night’s sleep in the history of grooms-to-be!  I remember being sore at the start of our honeymoon since I did about 8 trips that night after having only done 6 the entire season leading up to it!

Prior to the following season (2012), Marcello offered the group of gondoliers, 11 in total, a juicy incentive: generate x amount of revenue this season and he’ll fly us to Venice!  It was an ambitious number, but doable.

I started the season rowing Wednesdays, Fridays, and Waterfire nights (typically every other Saturday).  Unfortunately (well, kinda but not really), LbF was growing so I had to drop the Wednesday night shift but kept rowing when the schedule allowed.  Side note: besides being the coolest part-time job ever, the boss man (who I dubbed Massacello) is the kindest boss I’ve ever had!  I probably row the least # of trips and my schedule is a moving target,  but I try to help the team through networking, referrals, and my singing voice makes them all sound better!

Sunset shot of Michele.  Brought the phone on some trips in the 2nd season.

Sunset shot of Michele taken from barchetta mia (my little boat)

My last waterfire trip of the 2012 season!

My last waterfire trip of the 2012 season!

Anyway, we hit our number!  I’m writing this now just days after landing back from an amazingEuroTrip where the First Laidy and I joined LGP in Venice and then cousins Kerri, Brian, Cici, and Mickey in London!  What an amazing opportunity!

Here are some highlights from the Venetian experience:

How It's Made

How it’s made



Getting tips from the Maestro!

Getting tips from the Maestro!

Holy Sh*t Rowing a Gondola in Venice!

Holy sh*t I’m rowing a gondola in Venice!

Produce Barge (or Floating Farmers Market)

Produce barge (or Floating Farmers Market)

Our First Meal!  We started with the best intentions...

Our first meal started with the best intentions…

...and gradually we shifted towards more traditional Venetian fare!

…and gradually we shifted towards more traditional Venetian fare!

Plunging in the Adriatic felt just like home!

Plunging in the Adriatic Sea felt just like home!

It’s crazy how life goes!  Perhaps it’s a reach, or maybe it’s just another example of how going Primal opens doors one would never encounter; I would not have been on that kayak that day, nor would have been able to commit the time required to learn how to row a gondola, if not forleaving the real world and pursuing a burning desire to share this amazing lifestyle with others!  I am so grateful for the opportunity to work at LGP!  Besides being nice to be an employee, I get to dress up and be a tour guide in the Renaissance City, get in touch with my nautical nature, witness engagements and anniversaries, and hang out with a great group of eclectic and awesome people!

Finally, much love to Dante, aka the Maestro, and his wonderful girlfriend Stefania, our Tour Guide and Chef, for showing us an amazing time in Venezia!  The experience wouldn’t have been nearly as authentic without you!  I can’t wait to see you in Providence!

Our Hosts

Our Hosts

Oh and one last thing: we row every night, not just Waterfire nights!

Ciao for now!



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