No, not ferry. Ferri, plural of ferro, meaning iron.
The curious adornment at the prow of a gondola is immediately recognisable, yet I wonder how many visitors actually appreciate and understand its symbolism, which I suspect may be partially lost over time. I saw some which lacked all of the component parts of the examples in the picture below, perhaps because of ease of manufacture and the resultant reduction in costs. Of course it may be that the most elaborate are the latest incarnation of a piece that has evolved through the centuries.
The functional purpose is to protect the boat from collisions and scrapes; a hazard in a city with so many bridges to pass beneath, but in a wonderful piece of artistry, this equivalent of a car bumper also embodies the six districts of the city (sestiere), as well as the island of Giudecca in the “teeth” that protrude from it. The head, appropriately enough, is shaped like the caps worn by the Doges, while the semi circle formed below the cap represents the Rialto Bridge. The overall “S” shape of the piece echoes the shape of the Grand Canal, and on some vessels an additional three ornaments (leaves) protrude between the pairs of teeth to represent the lagoon islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Some also state that the half moon formed beneath the curve of the Ponte di Rialto signifies St Mark’s Basin. For a labelled diagram look here.
Italian style and function!