Well over ten years ago in Vegas, I wanted a gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel. Mr. P balked at the price and said that he’d pay for a real gondola ride when we made it to Italy. I was hopping and skipping when we finally arrived in Venice last year, ready for him to make good on his promise.
Just like anything that’s mildly famous in a city, it’s worth knowing a bit before you buy. Here are my essential tips for having a great gondola experience!
Rates are fixed. At the time we went, it was 80€ for 30 minutes. The price was the same for two to six people. If you want to save, split it among a group. If you have a group, note there are only two traditional seats in the gondola. The others will be sitting on small footstools. Rides at dusk cost more.
Yes, they speak English. Gondoliers speak well-enough English to quote you the price, sell you the ride, and understand the below. Don’t worry!
Watch the clock. Even though rates are fixed, look at your watch to make sure you are getting the entire time you paid for. To avoid an argument, make a big show of looking at your watch as you climb in.
Singing costs extra. If you want a serenade by your gondolier, you will pay extra.
Gondola vs. Sandalo. Make sure you are riding a gondola and not a sandalo if you want a gondola ride. A sandalo is a smaller boat that can fit into tighter canals, which can be a good thing if that’s what you’re after. But if you’re after a ride in a gondola, make sure you know the difference in looks. A gondola looks like this (note tall ends) and a sandalo looks like this.
Gondola traffic jams eat into your time. Your time is fixed even if your gondola has to wait for 3 or 4 other gondolas to clear out of your path. Do not get a gondola near San Marco or from the touristy side of the Rialto Bridge. We got ours from Rialto Mercato on the other side of the bridge. We told the guy we wanted quiet after seeing groups of cruise passengers stuffed up in other canals. He listened and we had a wonderful time.
Gondoliers will point out sites. It’s sort of like a mini tour. Since we asked for a quiet trip, we saw some cute cafes out of the way that we were able to find our way back to after the ride.
They will take your picture. I think they’re pretty used to it!
Don’t save your gondola ride for the last day. Or save it really at all. You never know how the weather can change. If the weather is great, go for it! If you really want to put off the ride, make sure to check the weather online. If the weather is bad, no gondola rides. We were there for 2 days: the first day was sunny and the second day was drizzly and windy. If we waited til the second day, we would not have gotten a ride.
Anyone else have tips to share? We loved our experience!