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Going by Gondola: Is It Worth It?

Where: Venice, Italy
May 13, 2008 at 2:00 PM | by | ()

We hate to pick on Venice--and we think everyone should try to get there to see it--but after cruising amidst the sea of tourists this weekend we fear the once romantic gondola ride is a dying art, replaced by a cookie cutter experience that isn't anything to write home about. The trouble starts with the price tag.

A half-hour ride for an Italian native starts at €50 ($77). For real tourists, especially non-Europeans, 30 minutes begin at €80. Depending on how motivated your gondolier is feeling, he may spend 10 of those 30 minutes pushing off the dock and turning his gondola in the correct direction. If "Let's get a move on, chief" isn't in your Italian phrasebook, you're basically stuck.

And, oh yes, it gets worse...

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.

Related Stories:
· Get Your Row on in Venice [Jaunted]
· Venice Starts Up Locals-Only Water Bus [Jaunted]
· Italy Travel coverage [Jaunted]

Archived Comments:


If you REALLY want that little boat/small canal experience in Venice, there are always the posh water taxis. All teak and brass love up in there. Plus, they are usually the same price as the gondolas...AND they can drop you off wherever you freaking want...unlike gondolas which return to a heavily-touristed post.

Off-season and off-peak times ...

Off-season is a good tip, although off-peak times work OK too - I was there one March, dreary weather, got up early and all the gondoliers were just standing around waiting for all the tourists to arrive.Asked a few for prices and they were ridiculous, then one guy offered us 45 mins for 40 Euros, he was fantastic. When we got back the others were still standing around waiting for their first passengers and he'd already made something.

Traghetti are the bomb

For those of us on a budget, the little Traghetti are wonderful! For something like 50 cents or a euro each, a couple of strapping hunks tow groups across the grand canal in real gondolas. All the natives stand, but my mom and dad froke out. It was too wobbly for them. I, the intrepid traveler, managed it. It's tons of fun! Quickly because my fave mode of transport after feet.

I recorded the experience on a podcast I made a while ago on The Tiny Guide. Have since renamed the blog.