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Of all the trademarks of Venice - and there are many, from the gilded Basilica of San Marco to the melancholy Bridge of Sighs - ne is more ubiquitous than the gondola. In Gondola, the internationally acclaimed 'American with the Venetian heart', Donna Leon, tells its fascinating story. First used in medieval Venice as a deftly maeuverable getaway boat, the gondola evolved over the centuries into a floating pleasure palace, bedecked in silk, that facilitated the romantic escapades of the Venetian elite. Today, the gondola wears black - a gleaming, elegant hue, and is manned by robust gondolieri in black-and-white-striped shirts and straw hats. A tourist favourite, the gondola has never ceased to be a part of authentic Venice. Each boat's 280 pieces are carefully fashioned in a maestro's workshop - though Leon also recounts a tale of an American friend who attempted to make a gondola all on his own. The feat took five years and countless do-overs. But the gondola is a work of art well worth the labour. And once its arched prow pushes off from the dock, the single Venetian at its oar just might break out in a barcarole, a popular Italian boat song. The best of these songs, as timeless as the allure of the gondola itself, are compiled into an accompanying CD.
Donna Leon was named by The Times as one of the 50 Greatest Crime Writers. She is an award-winning crime novelist, celebrated for the bestselling Brunetti series. Donna has lived in Venice for thirty years and previously lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a teacher. Donna's books have been translated into 35 languages and have been published around the world. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all been highly acclaimed; including Friends in High Places, which won the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, Fatal Remedies, Doctored Evidence, A Sea of Troubles and Beastly Things.