A Fun way to experience the Magic of Venice’s Grand Canal:
A gondola ride in Venice can be a romantic experience for two. Or, it can be a fun group activity shared by half a dozen people. But on my first gondola ride many many years ago, I actually took the trip on my own. As a young traveller, being in Venice on that first occasion was a magical experience and a ride on a gondola in Venice was such a romantic notion that it didn’t matter that I was doing the trip on my own.
The nice gondolier burst into O Sole Mio. And even though he was probably doing it to impress his passing fellow gondoliers rather than serenade me, it didn’t matter. I still have such fond memories of that first gondola ride, and that’s what travelling is all about.
If you’re thinking of doing a gondola ride on your Venice vacation, the arrangement is quite flexible. You can choose to take your ride in the morning, afternoon or evening and whether you prefer a long or short ride – it’s a case of negotiating with your gondolier.
There are several convenient locations to catch a gondola ride. One way, popular with many tourists, is simply to let your hotel work out the details. They do the bargaining for you, or can include a gondola ride as part of your hotel package. They may even arrange transportation for you from the hotel to your point of embarkation. If your hotel is along the Grand Canal, you won’t have to go that far.
The main tourist sections are the best places to board your gondola. Tronchetto, the Piazzale Roma, the Doge’s Palace in Piazza San Marco are all convenient places to catch your gondola ride.
Many of the pedestrian crossings in secondary canals will also have men offering gondola rides. Exercise caution, especially when handing out money, but most are actually there to drum up business, not to con you. You’ll generally find less crowded (and slightly less expensive) rides in these secondary canal areas.
The 3 km stretch along the Grand Canal is the most popular, because it covers some of Venice’s grandest sights, including the Rialto Bridge, Basilica di San Marco, the Campanile and others. But prices here do tend to be a little higher.
How Much Does a Gondola Ride Cost?
The local government authorities set official rates for gondola rides, but many gondoliers politely ignore them. The prices currently range anywhere from €100 to €120 (per gondola – price as of September 2012) for a 30 to 40-minute trip, depending on whether it’s a day or night trip. Gondoliers are notorious for overcharging so it’s useful to find what the latest official rates are so that you can at least be aware if you’re being quoted a reasonable price. Bargaining is normal and expected.
But remember the basic principle of supply and demand. In the peak summer months, when the cruise ships are in town, there are about 400 gondolas in operation, catering for the huge number of tourists, so prices tend to be higher. The gondoliers rarely have to do much beyond wait for the next potential customer willing to meet their price. Costs per person can be lowered by sharing a ride with up to six.
Tip: Before boarding your gondola, make sure that you’ve agreed with your gondolier the price, the duration of the ride and where the gondola ride will take you.
If the cost strikes you as too high, forego the experience. There’s no point in forking out the money if all you’re going to remember about the trip is the high cost. The gondoliers often come from families that have been rowing up and down the Venetian canals for generations, sometimes centuries. Some gondolier activity began as far back as the 11th century. They don’t need to be hassled, or to hassle you to make a living. There are plenty of low cost things to do in Venice if you’re on a budget or just think the ride won’t be worth it.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling alone or don’t enjoy haggling over prices for your gondola ride, you could consider pre-booking a trip with Viator. You have a choice of Venice Gondola Ride and Serenade, Venice Gondola Ride and Walking Tour or Venice Gondola Ride, Serenade and Dinner.
Gondola rides really are quite fun, and the scenery along the Grand Canal is spectacular. Venice is a very busy city and the Grand Canal is like a major thoroughfare. But for those in love, not even all the noise and din on the Grand Canal will take away the romantic aspect of a Venice gondola ride. Besides, not visit to Venice is complete without a ride on its iconic gondola.