Nowadays of course, gondolas are everywhere, from the Isis to Las Vegas, but the first to appear outside the Serenissima were the pair sent as gifts from the Doge Domenico Contarini to the newly re-established Charles II of England, together with four gondoliers kitted out in uniforms of crimson satin.
The gaudily decorated craft took to the Thames waters on 12th September 1661 and the Venetian ambassador Francesco Giavarrina reported back to his government as follows:
“It is impossible to express His Majesty’s pleasure or how the gondolas were praised by the King, Court and everyone. His Majesty at once got in with the Duke and Duchess of York and another lady of the Court and also made me enter. Other gentlemen of the palace followed in the second boat. He took a short course on the river before a great crowd assembled to see them, their richness, grace and lightness being generally admired with praises for the gondoliers also. He said many times that he had never seen anything finer or more gallant.
He charged me expressly to thank Your Serenity for the present which he valued greatly. It would really seem that the present of Your Serenity stands apart from the many others that have been made by the many other princes. This week he was presented by the States of Holland with a little vessel of great beauty to sail on the Thames, but he is more pleased with the gondolas and he enjoys nothing so much as going on the water.’