A Gondola is usually propelled by a Gondolier (since 2010 there is one woman who is allowed to do that too). The Gondola is like a symbol for Venice. If you see one on a picture you will think of Venice as well. For centuries gondolas were the most widely used boat and form of transportation on the canals within Venice. Today only a few are used for public transport as a ferry to cross the “street” It is 0,7 € for locals and 2 € (!!!) for tourists. The other vessels are almost exclusive used to ship tourists around. There are some Gondola races as well.
The Gondola is not build even so when the Gondolier stands on the back it balances out flat. The left side of the Gondola is longer than the right side. I did never know as i did never paid attention to this before. You can not take more than 6 passengers and some have to sit on the site to balance the boat. I am not really sure if this would be something that i would put on top of my Venice bucket list but a lot of tourists have it all the way up on theirs.
On top of that it is quite expensive if you ask me. 80€ for the first 40 minutes and an additional 40€ for every 20 minutes after that. In the night it is even 100€ with 50€ for the additional 20 minutes. These are the official prices for 2013 – check the price list here – it might be more by now! And just to be in one of them is not worth the money for me. I might as well get a return air ticket to Venice for that price.
You can see that the boat is constructed different from other boats. The Gondolier stands on the blue mat on the back and propels the boat with forward and backward strokes. It has to be flat on the water when he stands on one site only.
I like this one please! Make it red wine!
Most of the day it is waiting for customers. Talking to your colleague in the next boat does shorten the time. Some of the guys do approach tourists, others simply sit on chairs next to their craft or stand on the Gondola and wait. Do not worry about their English! Wikipedia mentions: “The profession of Gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses granted after periods of training and apprenticeship, and a major comprehensive exam which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola typically necessary in the tight spaces of Venetian canals.” So you can be sure that they speak English and some did even learn other foreign languages as well.
If you walk the small side streets with no motor boat traffic where the water is only a few meters wide you have no choice – you hear them talking with their customers. So i was taking a rest on one of the pillars next to the water and a few of them did pass. Some explain their customers a lot and stop here and there to point out little details on a house for example. But there are others that only ship their customers for the agreed time without really taking care of them.
To be fair – if you have passengers in the boat that do not speak any of your languages than there is not a lot of conversation. I guess it might also have something to do with the price you negotiate?
The best part of the trip – from one of the main canals into the little quite “back streets” of Venice.
This guy for example did a really good job explaining the details to his customers. I did follow a few minutes till they went round a corner where i had to stop. A bit like listen to a tour guide somewhere for a while.
If you go in the late afternoon it is possible that you get into a Gondula stau! So you waste your time on the boat waiting where you can not even see something interesting instead of seeing something that is interesting.
Not that you paid by the minute but i am not sure if that is really fun…
Back towards the bigger canals it gets a bit shaky sometimes. The other boats take care of the Gondolas and it looks like the Gondola has the right of way all the time. All of the big “bus” taxi boats that i took did slow down and waited for them to cross.