Once you finally get going, you're likely to turn down a seemingly secluded narrow canal only to stop abruptly and join a gondola queue, a la Disneyland's It's a Small World. To your front, you'll see a hi-tech Asian family taking your photo and to your rear a family of over-served Texans will be singing "'O Sole Mio."
At least your gondolier can drown out the chaos with his beautiful Italian serenade, that is, if he's not listening to his iPod. (If you can't tell from the photo, ours was.)
So if you've always dreamed of taking a ride, do it in the off-season and choose your gondolier wisely. But, if you're en route to Venice this summer, you can still see the sights by water. The vaporetti don't claim to be romantic or intimate, but a 12-hour pass on the water buses will only run you 14. Boats sail the Grand Canal, head to Murano and Burano and even stop at the Lido, home of Venice Film Fest.