No Trip to Venice is Complete Without a Gondola Ride:
It’s been decades since I took my last gondola ride and it came as a surprise to me to see the large number of gondolas gliding on the canals of Venice filled with willing customers. Some may say that gondola rides are touristy or tacky, while others complain about the cost, but there’s no doubt that the gondola business in Venice is very much alive and thriving.
Venice Gondola Ride
The gondola stations along the Grand Canal are very smart in appearance these days, and one hopes that the old image of gondoliers as hustlers and rip-off merchants have improved in line with the upgraded image of the gondola stops.
We boarded our gondola at the Gondole Danieli in front of the luxurious Hotel Danieli and travelled down the very busy Grand Canal. With the vaporetti, motoscafi and the many other water transport and delivery boats zapping up and down the Grand Canal, I was expecting our gondola to be rocked about by the swirling water from the passing vessels. But with the great skill of the gondolier, our gondola was quite stable in the water. We glided past San Marco and the Doge’s Palace and our convoy of gondolas then turned into the Rio del Ponte dei Sospiri and floated beneath the Ponte dei Sospiri, allowing us to see under the famous Bridge of Sighs.
Gliding along the smaller canals was more relaxing and we drifted past old palazzi, canal-side hotels, cafes and under the many Venice bridges. But the peace and serenity didn’t last too long as around the next corner we came face to face with many like tourists also enjoying their cruise around Venice’s famous canals. With great skill our gondolier carefully ducked the low bridges, manoeuvred the gondola around some tight corners and avoided colliding into the other boats.
A Gondola Serenade
Once in the quieter back canals the musicians in the front boat began their serenade. The singer belted out iconic Italians songs like Volare, Funiculi Funicula and O Sole Mio, all of which have nothing to do with Venice. However, unlike Mark Twain who in “The Innocents Abroad” accused the gondolier of ‘caterwauling‘ and threatened “Another yelp and overboard you go”, our Innocents Abroad didn’t mind and some even tried to sing the few lines that they knew of the songs. Before too long the relaxing gondola ride came to an end and we were back in San Marco.
A Sunset Gondola Ride
From no gondola ride in decades, we find ourselves taking yet another gondola ride within a month of the previous one. This pre-dinner sunset gondola ride took a different route and we got to the Rialto Bridge this time. The sunset cruise was much more romantic as by this time the masses of cruise ship passengers had returned to their boats, the delivery barges were no longer cluttering the Grand Canal and Venice became more serene. The golden glow of the setting sun lit up the buildings along the Grand Canal and the atmosphere was magic!
I’m glad to say that all the people in our group enjoyed their gondola ride and no one complained about the trip being ‘touristy’.
If your Venice visit is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, a gondola ride is highly recommended as a part of your Venice experience.