A gondola ( pronounced as Gone-duh-la) is a Venetian flat bottomed, banana shaped elongated rowing boat, built specially to waft by the Venetian lagoon. It’s almost always black and were traditionally the chief means of transportation through the waterways of Venice. Over the years, it has earned a romantic medal and is now touted to be one of the most romantic must-do’s in Venice. A few decades back, there were over 10,000 gondolas in Venice. Over the years, numbers have dwindled and there are only about 400 licensed gondoliers in Venice today.
Gondoliers are the ones decked in a striped shirt, black pant and closed toe black shoes steering your gondola. Gondolier-ing is a centuries old guild and is considered a highly noble profession in Venice. Did you know that gondoliers have to go through years of apprenticeship and have levels of exams on art, history, boating and linguistics? They also need to know 3 languages to become a licensed gondolier! Also, there is just one licensed female gondolier in all of Venice.
DO take a lot of pictures and with no hesitations ,ask your gondoliere to take a picture of you after your halt.
DO take some time to choose the right gondoliere. Make sure to talk to the gondolier and agree on a price and duration before hopping onboard. Also, some gondoliers can be hostile, so make sure you engage a friendly one for a memorable trip.
DO book online in advance for a better price. Though you can find gondolas in abundance, booking online gives you a better price, especially if you’re looking for a private tour.
DO purchase combo tickets that couple your gondola ticket with an attraction entry. These work out cheaper and help’s cover more ground over a day.
DON’T eat or drink on the gondola. The gondoliers do not appreciate this and might ask you to disembark.
DON’T smoke on the gondola and , most of all, do not stub your cigarette on the boat. Expect a fine if you pull a stunt of that sort!
DON’T move around while the gondola is in transit. You can lose your balance as they are really sleek and the gondolier will have a hard time maneuvering the gondola about too.
DON’T ask your gondoliere to sing or play music. There are special gondolas known as Serenading Gondolas which are known for the ride + music and they cost extra.
DON’T get personal with the gondoliers. Not all of them will appreciate it and steer clear of questions like “How much do you earn?” or “Do you pay taxes?”
Plan your Route - Before getting on a gondola, decide what kind of experience you want. If you want to witness the hubbub of the Grand Canal, hop onto a gondola somewhere near the Rialto Market or Doge’s Palace. If you’re looking for a more quiet and romantic ride, walk into the backlanes and ask the gondolier to take you through the inner canals and waterways.
Know the Costs - Yes, a gondola ride is a little heavy on the pocket but it is worth every penny. Know that the standard fares are set by the City of Venice, so if they quote anything above the set fare, simply walk away. Uptil 7 PM, the base rate for 40 minutes is €80 . Additional 20-minute increments are priced at €40. After 7:00 PM, the base rate swells to €100, with €50 for every additional 20 minutes. There is no point haggling with them for a lesser price either.
Keep cash handy - Gondoliers accept payment only in cash. They do not accept any other modes of payment and the payment is always due at the end of the ride. Do not pay upfront.
Be open to sharing your gondola - A typical gondola can accommodate up to six people, so if you’re a large group, split into two groups and get 2 gondolas. If you’re only less than 6, you can ask others to share the gondola with you and split the cost. Don’t worry, it’s a pretty common thing in Venice. If you’re shy to ask around, use the Kishare App for Venice that allows you to share a gondola with other travelers. Alternatively, book an online tour and you don’t have to worry about the hassle. Just pay your share in advance and have a seat booked!
Respect the Gondolier - As the captain of your ship, the gondolier deserves your respect and gratitude. Thank them for the experience while you’re stepping off and maybe even click a pic! Also, don’t insist on them singing for an extra few euros because some of them might take offence. If you’re interested in a singing gondolier, look up the Gondola Serenade Experience which will accommodate a musical gondola experience.
Respect the Rules - While the gondolier may not run you through a series of instructions, they expect you to follow basic decorum. Avoid avoid eating and drinking, remain seated and pay attention to their safety instructions.
Lastly, sit back and enjoy - Lose yourself in the moment , soak in the picture perfect Venetian scenery, hear the ripples of water beneath the boat and experience zen like never before. Embrace the joys of the gondola as you’re experiencing them and do not fret over the euros you have cashed out!
How much in advance should I arrive for my gondola tour? It is advisable that you reach at least 15 minutes prior to departure at the designated meeting point.
Are gondolas wheelchair accessible? Unfortunately, gondolas are not wheelchair accessible.
Are there any reduced prices for kids? Yes. Kids below the age of 2 sit free, provided they don’t occupy their own seat and are seated on their companion’s lap. Everyone above 2 years of age pay full price.
I have purchased a gondola tour with dinner combo. How do I pay for my kid who is below 2 years of age? Any purchase at the restaurant for children under 2 years shall be paid directly on the spot.
The weather on the day selected for my gondola tour is not conducive for a gondola ride. Do I get a refund? We know the weather in Venice is highly unpredictable, hence most of our tickets have a super flexible cancellation policy. You can cancel upto 24 hours in advance for a full refund. If you sense that the weather for the following day is unsuitable, please feel free to reschedule or cancel your tickets.
Where can I watch a Gondola being made? There are many gondola workshops across Venice, but we’d suggest the ones at the squero in San Trovaso, or the one at Crea, a squero in Giudecca.
Why are all gondolas painted black? While there are many theories and legends as to why gondolas are painted black the one deemed most truthful by historians is that noblemen in early Venice transformed the gondola from a simple means of transportation to a symbol of their wealth. They started adding embellishments and luxurious fabrics, so much so that the more decked a gondola looked, the more wealthy you were assumed to be. The situation was getting out of hand and it was decided that the flashiest gondolas had to pay a fine. However, the high bourgeoisie actually preferred to pay a fine than tone down their embellishments. With time, the competition died and between the 1500s and 1600s, the Provveditore (overseer) declared that all gondolas had to be painted black if it were to run on Venetian waterways.
What is the difference between a traghetto and gondola? They look the same to me. While they may look the same, a traghetto also known as a ferry-gondola is wider than a normal gondola. Moreover, it is rowed by two gondoliers and can carry up to 14 people. It costs just 2 Euros to cross the Grand Canal, hence making for an inexpensive solution for those looking to experience the feeling of a short gondola-ish ride.