You can’t think about Venice without thinking about gondolas.
But did you know that they are only used to ferry around tourists? It’s true; gondolas were a primary mode of transportation in the 17th and 18th centuries for Venetians, and many historians estimate that there were close to 8,000 or even 10,000 gondolas in the city at that time. Many tourists (like me) are surprised when they arrive to find only about 400 of these long boats on the water.
A lot of tourists are apprehensive about getting in a gondola – they look a little precarious because they’re so long and narrow. The fact is, they’re flat-bottomed which makes them incredibly stable. That is how the gondoliers manage to stand up and propel them with the long oar. Keep in mind though, that the water conditions can be a little rough, so try to plan a tour in the early morning or later in the afternoon if you’re prone to seasickness.
To ensure that tourists are treated fairly, the Venice government has set prices for gondola rides, though we found out when we got there that many of the gondoliers are open to bargaining. In fact, most expect you to haggle with them over the price. If you have a trip coming up, it may be best not to book your tours online, for this exact reason. Wait until you’re there and then either find a good deal for yourself or, if you’re not comfortable with that custom, you can have your concierge set up a tour on your behalf.
The boats themselves come in different sizes. Some seat as many as six people. Listed tours run anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour, though I’m sure if you wanted a longer one, you could negotiate it with your gondolier.
Venice was built on a group of 118 small islands that sit in northeastern Italy, in the lagoon that sits between the mouths of the Po and Piave Rivers. These islands are connected by over 400 bridges, many of them incredibly ornate and beautiful. As a result, the canals wend their way throughout the city. At nearly any of its foot crossings that span the many waterways, there are gondoliers waiting around to pitch their services to travelers.
Once you figure out which tour is for you, be prepared to sit back and enjoy. The rocking of the boat is mesmerizing. The gondolier will tell you stories about the buildings that you’re floating past, and he can even sing to you! This is one of my absolute favorite memories about visiting Italy.
This is a Guest article fromCarol Atkins. Carol Atkins has been traveling the world in search of the perfect beach. Along the way she’s discovered some pretty amazing places and people. On her last trip to Venice, she traveled with YMT Vacations.