Enough of kitsch gondolas. This is the message from Venices gondola association, which have drawn up rigid guidelines to be placed before the city council shortly. Once new norms are approved, gondoliers will have to stick to them under threat of losing their licence

Gondolas have become increasingly ostentatious, with lavish Hollywood-style colours, decorations and gildings to lure tourists, who dont like to climb on a gondola that is all black.

The gondola association now wants to recover the traditional characteristics. One of the main areas under review is colour, where gondoliers will have a choice of black, dark blue or purple for their interiors. All other part of the boat must be black, as in the days of the Serenissima. Once before, in the 16th century, private boats became so lavish that laws were enacted making uniform black compulsory.

The gondola association also wants to regulate the decorative statues in number and size and strip them of the gold embellishments that have crept in over the last decade. Seat backs and cushions will have to be made of plain leather, outlawing the use of more flamboyant materials.

The first written reference to gondolas dates back to the 11th century and images of the boats appear in Venetian art as early as the 1300s. The current slim, asymmetrical design was perfected in late 1800s to ensure that the gondolas would travel in a straight line, even though it was being rowed by a single oar, thus making it possible for one rather than the traditional two gondoliers to steer the boat.

At the height of the gondolas popularity in the 17th century more than 5,000 gondolas were active on Venices waterways. Nowadays, the numbers of gondolas in the lagoon city has dwindled to about 400.