If you’re ever in Venice, Italy I strongly recommend taking a gondola ride on Venice’s canals! We weren’t going to take one at first because it’s such a “touristy” thing to do but when in Venice – why not? It’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it will cost you about 80 euros or so (roughly $90) for a 45 minute ride – yikes! But it was totally worth it!
We walked around and spoke with a few gondoliers (the people who steer the gondolas) and chose a gondolier located in sestiere Castello (Castello neighborhood) somewhat tucked behind the hustle and bustle of tourists near Piazza San Marco. I wish I could remember our gondolier’s name. He was awesome! He offered two routes: the Grand Canal and back canals each about a 45 minute ride or we could’ve done both routes for almost two hours but we unfortunately had to still grab dinner and hop on the train to Rome.
Our gondolier was very informative and knew a lot about the history and physical structure of Venice. Yes, Venice is slowly sinking as sea levels are rising which is another reason why you should see Venice while you can! However, there are projects taking place that will hopefully save the city which often floods almost 100 times a year. Our gondolier also told us that large cruise ships constantly moving in and out of the city is actually disturbing the water levels because you have to remember Venice sits on a lagoon.
Technically, we got a tour on the Grand Canal when we took the vaporetto (water taxi) from the train station to Piazza San Marco. It wasn’t a gondola but it was still an awesome experience!
Anyway, so back to our gondola ride. The route began in Castello and sailed through San Polo, I think maybe San Croce too and then the back canals of San Marco neighborhood before returning to Castello. I suggest taking a back canal ride, it’s actually less crowded with tourists since many opt to tour the Grand Canal. It’s also a lot more quiet!
As we toured the back canals we saw historic sites, sailed underneath many bridges and viewed beautiful architecture.
He pointed out one particular bridge in the San Polo neighborhood, it’s called Ponte delle Tette (Bridge of Breasts)! The story behind that bridge is very interesting. It was a bridge in the red light district of Venice a long time ago that was used for prostitutes to display their breasts to entice potential customers.
We had a gorgeous gondola and if you want to steer one of these beauties it’s going to take a lot of work! Our gondolier told us he had to attend a school to learn all about steering, etc. then take an exam after spending weeks even months practicing for it.
If you fail the exam you have to retake it until you pass with flying colors – no mistakes allowed! Once you’ve passed you can get your gondolier license. You also must always wear the proper gondolier attire when working.
Venice is a beautiful city and I wish we had spent more time there (despite the swarm of cruise ship passengers) – it’s definitely bucket list worthy including the gondola ride.
If you do go on a ride, I recommend the late afternoon depending on the time of year (it was the month of September when we went.) With the “golden hour” approaching it is a truly magical and unforgettable experience. Ciao!