Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.”
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Friday, November 20, 2015
Authentic cappello makes it way from Venezia to the Gig Harbor Gondoliere
John Synco, the Gig Harbor Gondoliere
you live in and around Gig Harbor, you may have seen John Synco, the Gig
Harbor Gondoliere, cruising the Harbor with happy customers thrilled
to experience an authentic Venetian gondola ride without having to
leave town. Since Synco started serving the Harbor with his new
service in September, he has been featured in numerous print and
online news outlets, including KOMO TV, The New Tribune and several
Gig Harbor newspapers.
his gondola came from Venice, and John has more than 10 years of
practice and training in piloting Venetian boats, until recently he
lacked one final touch of authenticity – a true “cappello da
gondoliere.” He wanted a straw hat made by Giuliana Longo, a
renowned specialist who supplies the gondoliers of Venice (Venezia in
Italian). She has a shop near the Rialto Bridge and
is vice-president of El Felze, a cultural association in Venezia
“founded to protect the ancient crafts related to the construction
of the gondola and the clothing of the gondolier.”
the hats are delicate and expensive, Longo does not ship them, so
John needed to go to Venezia to get one – or he needed someone to
get one for him. That’s where I came into the picture. John related
his problem to Don Dosa, an officer of the Tacoma Sons of Italy, of
which I am also a member. Don knew that I traveled to Italy
regularly, so he let me know of John’s need. By good fortune, I had
already planned a two-week trip to Tuscany in early November, so I
contacted John to see if I could help.
already knew exactly the type, size and ribbon color that he wanted,
and I was able to use my Italian bank account to transfer the money
to Giuliana to pre-order the hat. We were told it would be ready by Nov.
1. Then came the issue of how to get the hat from Venezia to Toscana.
Lucy and I have close friends, Steve and Patti, who live in Strà,
between Padova and Venezia. Their son-in-law, Neemias, works at a
hotel in Venezia, so we contacted him to see if he could arrange to
pick up the hat. Then we would drive to Strà
Nov. 9 to help celebrate Steve’s birthday, pick up the hat and leave the next day,
Neemias makes the hat exchange at Steve and Patti's house, just in time.
sounded like a perfect plan, but it almost fell apart when we found
out Neemias works the night shift at the hotel, and he couldn’t get
to Giuliana’s shop during its open hours. However, he found a way
around that problem, calling Giuliana and asking if she could deliver it
to the hotel where he worked. The hat made it to the hotel in
time for Neemias to get it and bring it to us just before we had to
leave on the morning of Nov. 10.
Strà, the hat went in our
car with us to Montecarlo and then to the airport at Pisa. It went
on-board as my personal carry-on item to London, Newark (where we
slept overnight in the airport) and Seattle. I brought it home to Gig
Harbor Friday, Nov. 13 – unfortunately not in time for John to take
it with him to the gondola national competition in Newport,
California, on Nov. 14-15. However, Lucy and I met John for the first
time today, and we were able to deliver his well-traveled hat. When
he put it on next to his gondola, Nelly, with the water and boats of
the harbor in the back, he looked the part of gondoliere perfectly.
I have to retake all my publicity photos,” he said. He has been
rowing hat-less this fall because he didn’t want to wear anything
but the authentic cap. “I was using a fake hat for about a minute.
I am Facebook friends with Giuliana, and she saw me wearing it and
commented that it was ‘non bello.’ ”
It was a crisp November day, and John had Nelly partially covered with a tarp, but we could see that she is bellissima, a true Italian beauty. Although John gives gondola rides year-around, Lucy and I decided we will wait until warmer weather to take our first Gig Harbor gondola ride and see the hat, and John, in action.