Venice Gondola: The Quintessential Venetian Experience

A view of the Grand Canal as a Venice gondola floats by.
A view of the Grand Canal in Venice as the sun rises. Photo credit: @jen_nysj

Venice: Gondola Central

Venice gondola line a small side canal as night falls.
Gondolas line a small side canal as night falls. Photo credit: Pedro Lastra

Probably the most recognizable (and cliché) symbol of Venice, the gondola once filled the city’s canals, serving as the city’s main mode of water transportation. Venice gondolas were once decorated with brilliant colors and designs that rivaled the extravagance of the famed Venetian Carnevale masks.  However, by the 16th century the city put the kibosh on the artistic arms race and mandated black as the standard color.

In the centuries that followed, the gondola eventually fell out of favor as more efficient means of aquatic transportation became available, but several hundred still remain for the enjoyment of tourists. To prevent unsanctioned price-gouging, legal standard rates have been established for gondola rides. Some gondoliers manage to circumvent these by charging for add-ons such as tours, singing, or other amusements.

The Grand Canal

The best introduction to the city of Venice may be a ride along the Grand Canal, the 4 kilometer waterway that is the main thoroughfare for most of Venice’s boat traffic. Since most of Venice’s main attractions are located either along the banks of the Grand Canal or the lagoon, standing on terra firma, you just can’t gain the same appreciation for the majesty of this maritime city as you can when floating on its waters.

Taking a ride in a Venice Gondola

Venice gondola float along the Grand Canal, past Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
Gondolas in Venice float along the Grand Canal, past Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Photo credit: @vbolshakov

Water gently laps against the wall, pushed by the passing vaporetto as it shuttles locals through the winding canals. A small Venice gondola follows in its wake. Time seems to have stopped in this impossible city. The wind whips around as you look out onto the piazza, bustling with activity. Cafes ring with the sound of conversation, the smell of espresso wafting in the air. Glassblowers hammer away, turning molten material into masterpieces. Gondoliers ply their trade in the deep waterways. Venice awaits.

Caught the travel bug? Book a Venice gondola tour here.

And while you’re in Venice, don’t miss the Doge’s Palace!


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