Venice wants heritage status for gondolas

London: Venice wants its famous wooden gondolas to be given World Heritage status and it is set to apply to get them listed.

The move comes as plans by a shipyard in Brindisi in southern Italy to start producing weather-resistant plastic and fibreglass replicas emerged.

The city’s gondoliers`` association said that it takes months of painstaking work to make an authentic gondola, and replacing them with plastic is "outrageous".

"Safeguarding the tradition of the gondola, of the materials used to build it, is fundamental, given that we recently heard that a shipyard is thinking of making them out of plastic," the Telegraph quoted Aldo Reato, the president of the gondoliers`` association, as saying.

"Whatever can be done to safeguard the tradition is positive," he stated.

There are fears that plastic gondolas on the canals and backwaters would push the city further down the path of becoming a pastiche, theme park version of itself.

The flat-bottomed boats are traditionally made by hand, using eight different types of wood, and cost around 20,000 pounds.

The campaign will be launched next week, and the application for heritage listing would have to be drawn up by the Italian government and submitted to UNESCO in Paris.

Cecile Duvelle, the head of UNESCO`s intangible cultural heritage section, said gondolas would have a good chance of being included.

"It would make sense because gondoliers possess a knowledge about Venice’s culture and history that no one else has. They are part of a unique community," Duvelle said.

"Inscribing them on the list should help preserve them from the wrong kind of exploitation.

"UNESCO listing would not stop a private company from manufacturing plastic gondolas because it is a free economy, but it would add a stamp of authenticity," Duvelle added.

Venice also wants some of its other traditions inscribed on the UNESCO list of "intangible heritage", like the Carnival, lace making on the lagoon island of Burano and glass blowing on the nearby island of Murano.