Hidden waterways, live music, gondola drag racing, Armani spotting and general mayhem
Escaping from the Grand Canal, the gondolas explore the hidden canals running through the back blocks of Venice, winding their way along the narrow waterways towards Piazza San Marco. Inaccessible if the tide is high, these Venetian “side streets” provide a glimpse into the true character of the city.
“Well, off we go, off the Grand Canal into the deeper recesses of Venice. No, I’ve not fainted, I’ve just got a change of view looking upwards.
“Interestingly, earlier on today we would not have been able to do this trip. If I just switch around to the wall here, the division between the brick and the concrete, just there, that’s approximately where the water was earlier on today. As a result you saw even the gondolas could not get under the bridge; their prows would not clear it because they stick up and of course that’s one of the ways the gondoliers judge the situation.”
High tide means no gondola trips
“We saw a few try at the centre of the bridges, but basically you can’t get under these, they’re all the same height for the most part. You can see where the water usually comes up to and this is a relatively normal occurrence.
On a really high tide – and there’s a mark on a few places places along here indicating the high water mark – it can get past the level of the first floor windows.”
Drag racing gondolas: fierce competition (well, sort of)
“Hello, with a surge of unleashed power, another gondolier is overtaking us. They’ve obviously bribed their gondolier to drive faster and they’re having some kind of dispute back there, but it’s in the Venetian dialect and so although I speak fluent Italian (Ed: Yeah, right), I can’t understand a word of it. So there we are. Oh, there’s a gay badinage between the two gondoliers.
(protest from gondoliers as Helen tries to slow down the competing gondola by pulling at it)
“Hey, grabbing hold of the next gondola and pulling is not seen as good form, definitely not seen as good form. Well, there’s all kinds of things going on here. Oh dear, well, we’ll give them best on this one, even though they cheated.”
Giorgio Armani fails to impress our gondolier
“Well, much to Helen’s disappointment, we’ve just gone past the Giorgio Armani shop which is directly behind on the left. (Gondolier is vociferously not impressed by his female passengers’ excitement) Well, it seems our gondolier has strong opinions on Giorgio Armani.”
It’s Gondola Central (and the Hard Rock Cafe)
“We seem to have come just about full circle because here seems to be a gondola park. There’s the Hugo Boss shop, and just in case you think it’s all designer outlets and the rest around here, there’s the Venetian, or the Venice Hard Rock Cafe just on the right down there – no, I’m not going to show you a picture of it, but there is one here, although it seems to me to speak of times past… Well, as we glide smoothly into the gondola park, I say farewell, from Venice.”