Apparently one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, the 1,000 year old Gondaliers Guild in Venice is opening up a little.
The City of Venice awards only 425 gondolier licences and there are years of apprenticeship and a major exam to pass before one has any hope of entering La Categoria (the gondolier guild).
The medieval roots of the gondolier reach into the 21st century, with only two clear routes into the trade. "You are either born into it or racolto (lifted up) or trova (found) by another gondolier, as I was," explains Giovanni.
Gondoliers' exam results are published in the local paper, littered with "sons of" and "brother ofs", hinting at why it is almost impossible for a non-Venetian to penetrate the clam-tight guild.
The same applies if you are a woman - though a gondolier's widow is allowed to employ a substitute on her husband's license for two years, or until her son is old enough to enter the guild.
I think I will stick with the devil you know. I had a hard time operating a punt with a lady in it and doubt that I could pass the test.