The gondola is a defining symbol of Venice and a rite of (tourist) passage, but what should you pay for the privilege of taking to the city’s famed canals. Gondolas in Venice are everywhere and you know you really want to try it – I count it as one of the main highlights of my time there. But what exactly do you get for your money?
Typically you will get quoted near to 100 Euros for a gondola ride in Venice, whether there’s one, two or six of you, for a 30 minute ride in the early evening. During the day this should cost you slightly less (around 80 Euros). This includes a tour through the serene backwaters and will end on the Grand Canal, taking in the main sights.
You can certainly barter with the gondolier (driver) but he (which it most likely will be as there’s only one trained woman) won’t budge easily. “I have a very beautiful boat” he says “you want one for less you walk further along”.
With the lavish seat lining, intricate design and spotless paint work you can’t disagree, but you walk on anyway. A gondola is a gondola and there is plenty to choose from, with over 400 said to be in operation in Venice today.
Venice Gondolas – The Price of Tourism
As a traveller, bartering is a given whether you succeed or not and walking a bit further down a canal makes no difference right? Right, because then you score a gondola for 20 Euros less, which split between a few of you equals a bargain. “Singing costs extra” he says, but you can live without that. You have the potential to pass other passengers who have paid for the aquatic melodies so you can reap the benefits from that (can you tell I travel on a budget?).
Yet if you want the ultimate serene, romantic experience of Venice as you gracefully lull down the canals and decadent buildings and float silently amongst the tranquil backwaters, then that extra 20 Euros just may be worth it.
Why? Because for the 20 Euro ‘discount’ my driver smoked, chatted on his mobile and sang (hummed) Lady Gaga.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my gondola ride and Lady Gaga in an Italian accent was hilarious, serving us right for pushing for a free song. I was with some fabulous Canadian girlfriends and I finally had the opportunity to try something that was on my travel to do list for years.
Sure, I wasn’t with someone I was hopelessly in love with (as I had always imagined of my first Gondola ride) but I would never have passed up on this opportunity while in this beautiful city. Who knows when I will be back?
I was taught some history, got close to some magnificent architecture, shown some film sites from Casino Royale and The Tourist, learnt about the driver’s life and family (ok, he moaned a little about his wife) and saw a completely different view of Venice away from the tourists crowds who rammed the bridges and narrow streets.
I later found out that my Dad had chartered the waters with the same guy a few months prior so I like to think we scored some kind of legend of the Venetian seas. If you want to know who he is he has Leonardo carved in gold on his Gondola, although that’s probably the common name equivalent of trying to find a guy called Dave in England.
But the moral of the story is this: you really get what you pay for and in Venice that Gondola ride will most likely be one of your ultimate highlights, and you may be banking on it being one of the most romantic things you have ever wanted to try.
So if you don’t want to cloud the dream or have anything taint this particular experience in Venice, think about paying that little extra and give your driver and his Gondola a proper check over – that’s normally a good giveaway!