The gondolas in Venice are almost as emblematic of the city as the canals they float on, and thanks to a new private-public project, the traditional form of transportation just became more inclusive.

Italy, Veneto, Venice, Gondola under bridge
Credit: Getty Images

Gondolas4All unveiled its first wheelchair-friendly access point on March 11, where a crowd gathered to watch several wheelchair-bound people take a spin in an authentic boat. The organization also created a special jetty that uses an automatic lift to make getting in to the unstable gondola easier. Over the next few weeks, gondoliers will be trained in operating the lift, and visitors can book a ride for the average ticket price on the website.

“The association Gondolas4All was born to make the gondolas accessible to wheelchair people,” founder Enrico Greifenberg said in a promotional video. “A project like this had never been realized. It’s a real innovation for Venice.”

One gondolier, Alessandro Dalla Pieta, was touched by the big occasion saying that over his 20 years of being on the water he had seen “people in wheelchairs dozens of times looking at us as if we were the last Coca Cola in the desert.” He added, “It tugged at my heart.”

The service, available from car-accessible Piazzale Roma, will begin in about six weeks.

By Jordi Lippe and Jordi Lippe-McGraw