Venice’s Gondolas Glide Through History

-Anthe Mitrakos/Special to TNH

Situated in northeastern Italy, Venice is one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations, attracting some 50,000 tourists a day during peak season. Built on a lagoon, the city is known for its winding waterways, and marvelous Byzantine and Baroque style buildings. And the Venetian experience is, of course, not complete without a traditional gondola ride.

A gondola is a flat-bottomed, lightweight, and narrow rowing boat special to Venice. Well suited for lagoon waters, the gondola is propelled by a standing gondolier using a long oar. Adhering to modern local law, gondolas are painted black, and many are decorated lavishly with velvet throws and pillows.

Until the introduction of the motorboat, the gondola served for centuries as the main means of transportation throughout Venice. Today, gondolas are still used as water ferries, but mainly serve as an iconic tourist attraction of Venice.

Gondoliers wear the traditional straw hat, black pants, and striped red and white shirt. If you’re lucky, gondoliers may sometimes serenade you during rides, though this is not a required part of the service. Additionally, most gondoliers speak English fairly well and can share the history of buildings and canals while they navigate through the waters.

During the ride, the gondolier takes you on path weaving through tranquil neighborhood waterways and backstreet canals, passing by elegant and charming buildings, and notable sites such as Marco Polo and Casa Nova’s residences, and the famous Rialto Bridge in Grande Canal, depending on which route you choose to take.

Gondolas depart from and return to the same spot, so if you are looking to take a ride along the Grande Canal, look for a gondolier in the area, likewise if you are interested in exploring the back canals on Venice, seek a gondolier there.

It is recommended that you take the backstreet canal tour, as it is more romantic, relaxing and cozy than a ride in the oftentimes crowded Grande Canal. Along the way, you will encounter tiny bridges, the mellow hues of beautifully ornate buildings, and a relaxing aura makes this mini cruise a perfect setting for photos.

Gondola boats are union-operated and the price of a ride is set. Daytime rides cost 80 euros with each additional 20 minutes going for 40 euros, while nighttime rides cost 100 euros per boat ride with each additional 20 minutes going for 50 euros.

Each boat fits up to six people, and can either be shared or privately rented out. Rides last about 35 to 40 minutes. Though it’s a bit costly, experiencing a classic gondola ride (and taking lots of photos to prove you were there) is worth the steep price.