Sunday, October 21, 2012


(This is the start of a new series on my recent trip to Italy, covering Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence and Rome, as part of an Intrepid Travel tour group. Off-hand, i'd say there will be 5 or 6 posts in the series, but depending as usual on my mood and degree of laziness, there might only be this one! :D Your guess is as good as mine, haha)

Parked gondolas, with the lovely island San Giorgio Maggiore in the background.

Riding a gondola (defined officially as a "traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat" by Wikipedia) is one of those de rigueur things to do in Venezia (Venice). There is somehow something romantic about sitting on one of these boats, steered expertly by the gondolier (described invariably as a handsome ruffian, with George Clooney-esque rakish charm) and exploring the small back canals in Venice. 

But the Venetian gondola experience does not come cheap. And some people even go so far as to opine that it is an over-rated experience, if not an outright tourist trap.

So, let's talk about the costs. Below are the official prices posted on the Ticket Office. Please note that each gondola can seat a maximum of six (6) persons, so these prices (EURO 28.00/pax for the standard Gondola ride, and EURO 40.00/pax if you want to be seneraded by the gondolier) reflect that. Yup, you will be sharing the gondola with other people! Complete strangers even (unless you are conveniently a group of 6 persons)!

Prices at the Ticket Office

Approaching the gondolier directly is not necessarily an optimal strategy, as online accounts report that they have been known to charge as high as EURO 80-100.00/pax. And of course, should you wish a private gondola ride (i.e. you and your loved one lying on each other's arms, basking in the sunset, whilst the gondolier warbles "O Sole Mio" plaintively), the costs will be steep.

Servizio Gondole

 So, our instant group of 5 bubbly Aussie teen-age girls and one surly jet-lagged tourist (moi) were off, as our gondolier paddled along the Grand Canal. Eventually, we turned into the tight smaller canals for a backstage peek of the less crowded/touristy parts of Venetian residences.

Navigating one of the tight canals

The water at the canals was greyish-green, opaque but not quite murky; and thankfully, did not smell. And hardly any flotsam. One could see, based on the marks on the walls, that the water level can get really high, and portions of Venice (including the lowest point, Piazza San Marco) are under water during certain times of the year.

The water can rise to high levels

The gondoliers tend to be tall, tanned and with muscular arms and broad shoulders (due to the nature of the job), and i was told that it was considered a noble profession, which gondolier families pass down from one generation to the next. 

Ah, for the female readers of this blog, here's a photo of one of the gondoliers:

Gondolier in action. Nice striped shirt and cool shades, huh?

And another one of him working hard to steer the boat. 

So what's my verdict on the whole gondola ride experience? Well, it was a bit underwhelming, really. We didn't hear a peep from our gondolier, for one!  It probably would have made a big difference if he provided a bit of background or commentary.

I guess it's something one has to do ONCE, just to experience it first-hand.   

For those who are interested to learn how to row a gondola (i.e. "be a gondolier for a day"), Row Venice provides 2-hour lessons. Not recommended for people who can't swim though, haha.

1 comment:

Koryn said...

You know I've been hearing/reading comments same as yours about the gondola rides!

But I guess you can't really say your experience was complete unless you try it out, right?