Guide to Venetian Gondolas

Updated August 14, 2020.

This Motivation Monday I have your guide to gondolas in beautiful, iconic, historic Venice! It’s the ultimate in romance: a private gondola ride through the beautiful canals of Venice, Italy. Perhaps you’re being serenaded as you float along. If you’re like me and you always want to know a little more about iconic sites and activities around the world, this blog post is for you! Here is your ultimate guide to Venetian gondolas.

Gondolas docked on the Grand Canal at San Marco

The History

Gondolas have been toting people around Venice almost as long as people have needed to get around the canals. They were originally just the way people navigated the many canal “streets” in their city and between the islands. Steam-powered vessels started to become popular in the late 19th century, causing the use of gondolas to decline. However, gondolas began to be made with an asymmetrical design, which allowed gondoliers to manage and row the gondolas more easily by themselves. In recent years, gondolas have become more popular again, mostly for tourists instead of locals.

Gondolas near the Rialto Bridge
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Venice

The Training

Not just anyone can be a gondolier. Gondoliers’ licenses used to be passed down through families for generations, but now it takes a long time and a lot of training to obtain a gondolier’s license! Gondolier hopefuls have to find a willing licensed gondolier to apprentice with, complete 400 hours of training, and complete tests on their physical strength, navigational skills, language prowess, and knowledge of Venice itself!

Your gondolier had to take a long row on the canal for the privilege of showing you around town. Feel free to ask questions and fully enjoy your journey. You’re in good hands!

A Real Gondolier!
More here: 10 Reasons to Visit Venice

The Cost

You may be relieved to know that the government regulates the cost of the gondola rides–you will not be gouged on the price. You may not be so thrilled to find out that it will cost you 80 Euro for 30 minutes during the day and 100 Euro for 35 minutes after 7:00pm. Our gondolier also offered to take us on a longer tour to see more sites for 120 Euro for 45 minutes. However, all those prices are per ride, not per person. There is enough room for six people in each gondola, making the cost just over 13.33 Euro per person during the day and 16.66 Euro per person after 7:00pm. That’s not bad at all! Make some friends while in Venice and enjoy an affordable gondola trip!

Zoom in for details!
Food for thought: What’s Worth the Splurge on Travel?

The Experience

We really did enjoy our gondola ride! It is an amazing, unique thing to do at least once in your life. Here is our experience:

Getting a Gondola

We quickly realized that there are gondola stands set up all along the popular tourist areas beside the many canals, both on the Grand Canal and along the smaller canals, too. The stands are green and look like this:

Gondola Stand
More here: Top 10 Romantic Things to Do in Venice

Getting in the Gondola

Don’t worry if you don’t have sea legs! The gondolier will help you into the gondola and ask you to have a seat. There is room for six, but since it was just Steve and me, we sat in the most comfortable spot in the back.

Lovers in a Gondola
Ah, love: The Secrets to Happy Couple Travel

The Ride

With the swiftness of someone who’s been through a lot of training and has plenty of experience, our gondolier whipped right out of his parking spot and glided with us into the Grand Canal. And just like that, we were turning down a smaller canal and under the Bridge of Sighs! He also whipped it right into the tiny boat slip again upon returning. He was really good!

Off we go!
Keep reading: The Ultimate Travel Couple Bucket List

The Route

It was fun to go down the smaller canals past local homes and businesses. We even saw people hanging their laundry out to dry, and I couldn’t help but wonder how often something gets dropped or falls into the canal after being freshly laundered! We passed under more tiny, quaint bridges than I could count, and many buildings displayed flags, flowers, or simply beautiful iron gates. It really was a little like a dream!

Some Tips

I would have done a couple of things differently if I could do our gondola ride over again. It was a wonderful experience (I mean, we were on a gondola, gliding our way through Venice!), it’s an expensive thing to do, so you may only ever do it once–you’ll want to do it right!

  • Take a ride that starts and ends near the Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal. It was cute to go through so many back alley canals and see part of the real Venice life, and going under the Bridge of Sighs was certainly iconic, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get a good photo of the huge, beautiful, iconic Rialto Bridge! If I could have taken a photo from the Grand Canal itself, I definitely would have gotten a better picture.
  • Don’t move around too much! It’s a narrow boat, and our gondolier was a stickler about keeping the body weight balanced! If you sit back and relax, you’ll be fine; do not lean over the side to get a unique photo (and no, I did not do that myself).
  • Take pictures and even videos with your phone or camera, but also don’t forget to be in the moment and take it all in without your phone in front of your face.
  • It’s cool in the shade and down at water-level, so bring a jacket, especially in fall, winter, or spring.
  • You pay at the end. I was a little surprised we didn’t pay up front, but just so you know, that’s how it goes!
  • It doesn’t smell that bad. I had someone tell me to skip Venice because she just couldn’t take the smell. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it smells like water, and it’s just not a big deal! Do not skip Venice because someone else has an overly sensitive nose!

Are you ready for your own trip to Venice? I recommend it! The gondola ride was well worth the cost–and that is coming from a very cost-conscious girl!

Want more? Check out my Italy Page for all my Venice tips and recommendations!

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3 responses to “Guide to Venetian Gondolas”

  1. […] to do, the only thing higher on the list was a real gondola experience! I wrote all about it in my Guide to Venetian Gondolas, so be sure to check it out for the best […]

  2. […] is nothing more romantic or Venetian than gliding through the city on a Venetian¬†gondola! Sometimes the gondolier will sing to you, and once I heard an accordion playing as a gondola […]

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