Why you should care
Because romance — and the art of apprenticeship — lives on.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods — and waterways — across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
When you hear the sounds of Italian opera being sung under a footbridge on Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, you think, “Nah …” Then, the deep baritone voice mingles with the rhythmic dubstep being played by a nearby DJ, and you see it glide by, as if you’re standing along a narrow Venetian canal, not a graffitied urban estuary: a gondola, an honest-to-god authentic wooden Italian gondola. At its helm is Eivind Limon, Oakland’s most newly minted gondolier, singing away with a look of reverie on his face. A gondolier! That romantic figure that seems almost the stuff of fiction — or at least of times long past.
This is the real-world wonder that is brought to you by Gondola Servizio, a small Oakland business driven by the dreams of a passionate couple — che romantico!— Angelino Sandri and April Quinn. The duo managed to bring three Venetian gondolas to California, each made from a different kind of wood (two are full size, one is a smaller sandolo). But then they had to cope with the issue of just who would row them, since Sandri could not keep up with business solely by himself. Where does one find a gondolier in Northern California, 6,000 miles from Venetian culture? Craigslist, of course.
The gondolier needs many skills — rowing finesse, knowledge of Venetian culture and history and, often hardest to find, a voice. Sandri can teach the first two, but the voice? Eivind Limon has got it. Limon is Sandri’s latest Craigslist find: born and raised in Oakland’s Dimond District, and singing since age 8 in a series of local choirs, most recently as part of the Oakland School for the Arts. Sandri was particularly impressed with Limon’s singing résumé, which included an appearance on an NBC reality show, and a protégé began his training to become Oakland’s newest gondolier.
Tours are available for $85 an hour for two people. Along the way, Limon will tell you about the 1,000-year history of the gondola and what kinds of wood are used for each part. And he might just explain why it is that gondoliers started to sing to their customers in the 19th century. You’ll have to take the tour to find out.
Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with a few words from Mark Twain from The Innocents Abroad:
The gondolier is a picturesque rascal for all he wears no satin harness, no plumed bonnet, no silken tights. His attitude is stately; he is lithe and supple; all his movements are full of grace. When his long canoe, and his fine figure, towering from its high perch on the stern, are cut against the evening sky, they make a picture that is very novel and striking to a foreign eye.
This editorial article was originally created by OZY Media and published on OZY.com prior to, and independently of its inclusion in this JPMorgan Chase & Co. sponsored series. OZY Media claims the full rights and responsibilities of this article.