History of the Venetian gondola
Originally the gondola was the most popular means of transport of the Venetians (especially of the higher class), but today the vaporetto or water bus has become the most important way to get around the hundreds of canals in this idyllic city. Several centuries ago, there were still about 10,000 gondolas in Venice and now only 500 of them remain. Traditionally, a gondola is made of wood and is eleven meters (36,09 ft) long and weighs around 600 kilograms (1325 lbs). Each gondola boat is handmade in special workshops called ‘squeri’.
What to expect during a gondola boat ride in Venice
By default, a trip is done in a private gondola boat for about 40 minutes. Beware: often when you try to haggle about the cost, your trip will be cut short. There can get up to six people in a gondola and the number of passengers doesn’t affect the price. If you want to save money you can always share a gondola with other people.
Most gondoliers speak a little English or French. They are required to wear black pants with a striped T-shirt and closed black shoes. Often they have a special hat but they don’t always wear them. Singing is not mandatory for gondoliers, although some will do this and also provide information about the city and its rich history. Even if they do, they are not expecting a tip. So you’d better spend that tip money on other things to do in Venice!
Where to take a gondola in Venice and which route
Most of the gondolas are found in the main tourist areas of Tronchetto and the Piazzale Roma up to the Rialto Bridge and the Doge’s Palace. The chance is that you meet men who politely ask you for a “gondola” when you walk past them. It may be more fun to take a gondola in Venice on the quieter canals than on the busy ‘Il Canal Grande’. This allows you to see another side of the city and you won’t lose time queueing up behind other boats. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s better to catch a gondola a little bit outside the St. Mark’s Square. You’ll get great views as well, but without losing precious time!
How much is a gondola ride in Venice?
The price of gondolas in Venice is officially determined. Until 7 pm you pay 80 euros for the first 40 minutes and for an additional 20 minutes you pay 40 euros extra. After 7:00 pm a 40-minute cruise will cost you 100 euros and another 50 euros will be charged per extra 20 minutes. Sometimes gondoliers give you a discount at the end of the evening, but this is hard to plan.
If you travel alone or with two, it might be interesting to know that there are shared gondolas as well. If you don’t want to get on a private gondola in Venice, you can share the boat with other people. This will save you a lot of money, because for 30 minutes you only pay €30 per person. This guided tour must be booked in advance.
You can book Venetian gondolas online as well. Below are some options with rates:
Cheaper alternative for a gondola in Venice
If you just want to sit in a gondola, and take some quick pics you can also take the traghetto to cross the Canal Grande. This is a gondola that is used to bring passengers from one side of the channel to another. Of course these boats aren’t decorated with beautiful carvings or comfy seats. It may not be so romantic, but it costs you only two euros per transfer.
Four fun facts about Venice and its gondolas
- There are more than 400 hours of training and learning time required to control, rotate, slow down, reverse and stop these gorgeous boats. This is absolutely not easy!
- The first female gondolier (Gondoliera) only got her license in 2010. Giorgia Boscolo, the daughter of a gondola veteran with more than 40 years of experience, was the first woman to pass the exam.
- In addition, gondoliers must take an exam on the history of Venice and its main sights. There are also language requirements. It’s a noble profession and only three to four new licenses are issued each year.
- The back of a gondola is made of 280 carefully cut pieces using eight different types of wood (oak, elm, linden tree, larch, fir, cherry, walnut and mahogany).
A gondola ride in Venice can be quite pricey, but it’s definitely an unforgettable experience. Don’t choose the first gondolier you see, but try to pick one in a more quiet area, giving you a more unique (and less crowded!) experience in this beautiful city. If you still find it too expensive you can always take the vaporetto or the traghetto. Equally good views and a lot cheaper!
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.