For centuries, the gondola was a major means of transportation and the most common watercraft within Venice. In modern times, the boats still do have a role in public transport in the city, serving as traghetti (small ferries) over the Grand Canal operated by two oarsmen.
Various types of gondola boats are also used in special regattas (rowing races) held amongst gondoliers. Their primary role today, however, is to carry tourists on rides at fixed rates. There are approximately 400 licensed gondoliers in Venice and a similar number of boats, down from the thousands that travelled the canals centuries ago. However, they are now elegant craft, instead of the various types of shabby homemade boats of the distant past.
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