The gondola of Venice

The gondola is surely the most famous symbol of Venice. Perfectly designed for shunting around the shallows of the Venetian lagoon and the city’s narrow waterways, these exquisite handcrafted vessels have been a mainstay of Venetian life and culture for centuries. The gondola may have lost its place as the workhorse of Venice, though fleets of them continue to punt tourists around and come the first Sunday in September they race along the Grand Canal in the classic Regata Storica.

Skippered by the proud (occasionally arrogant), stripped shirt wearing gondoliers, today’s gondolas are basically just for tourists and yes they can cost an arm and a leg to ride in (though there are ways to keep costs down) however we must admit that a ride in a gondola is a quintessential Venetian experience and great way to explore this wondrous city. The gondolas themselves are obsessively alike - we haven’t measured ourselves, but apparently they must be 10.87m long and constructed using eight specific woods. So the question is not which gondola to choose, but what you want to see. Tours can be pre-booked or you can negotiate a personalised itinerary with your gondolier - we love exploring the narrow back canals where Venice’s hidden beauty can be seen. The other big question, is of course, how much you are willing to spend. The official minimum fare is €80 per gondola (for up to 6 persons) for 40 minutes. Prices fluctuate seasonally and can also depend on ones haggling skills, though in general group tours during the day are the cheapest option.

For those on tight budgets the seven Traghetto ‘gondola ferries’, which simply shuttle back and forth across the Grand Canal, are a great way to have a gondola trip very cheaply (€2) even if it lasts barely a minute.
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