Row, Row, Row…

29 May

The Mister can't wait to sit down in one of these!

When I visited Venice with my family we didn’t ride on a gondola.  I was relieved.  To me it’s always been a romantic thing to do.  Riding along with your family while your sister tries to pretend that it isn’t happening and your dad is trying to take pictures of the gondolier isn’t romantic.  I was glad that we didn’t do it and I instead thought ahead to the day when I would return with someone special.

Enter the Mister.  Does he care that I’m forcing him onto a gondola with me?  Not if it means that we’ll be off of our feet for a bit.  As I ramble on to him about the different places I want to visit when we are abroad, he begins to worry more and more that I intend to have him walk a daily marathon.  I don’t think I do but since he definitely does, this idea was an easy sell.  I’m thrilled.  I look forward to gliding through the side canals with him and having that memory in my back pocket for years to come.

Now if you are looking to save money, you and your five friends can share a gondola.  After all, they don’t come cheap.  The starting cost as decided by the Venetian government is  € 80 for a one hour ride before 7 pm.  After 7 pm (or 19:00) it goes up to € 100.  This is the starting cost though.  You’re not likely to get a ride for this much.  And if you want someone to sing to you then you’ll have to pay more.  Personally, I would gladly pay the guy much more for no singing.  Now if he wants to tell us about the history of Venice or where the best pasta is, that’s totally tip-worthy.  Someone singing for me makes me sweaty and tense.  I try not to pay money for that kind of feeling unless it involves the dentist.

Then there’s the question of what you want to see.  I think that the Grand Canal is beautiful but you can see that on a vaparetto for much less money.  The vaparetti are like bus boats.  They have regular, posted schedules and you’ll be riding with tourists and real Venetians alike.  Unless a Venetian is getting married they don’t bother with the gondolas.  However, it is a part of their past as everyone with money used to find their way around in a gondola.  There are currently 500 gondolas but there were, at one time, 10,000.  Can you imagine?  Can you also imagine some of the hanky panky that they got up to on those boats?  I can because I read that book about Casanova.  Mama mia!

You can book a gondola ride with your hotel or over the internet, too.  You’ll pay extra for the convenience though.  This is especially true in high season when the demand goes way up.  Earlier in the day there are less takers, so it’s a little cheaper and easier to find a ride.  Part of the experience is finding a gondolier that you like.  You know, like one who won’t sing.

There’s only one woman gondolier thus far (certified in 2009).  All gondoliers must go through certification and are required to wear the uniform of dark pants and striped shirt.  The straw boater, while fetching, is optional.  All gondolas are black though some are heavily decorated.  Some Venetians are working to put a stop to this individualism and return to plain black boats.  They say that the gondola is a symbol of Venice.  I think that if they’re really worried about it that they should go after the Venetian in Las Vegas first because I went on that sucker.  Nothing demeans a national symbol quite like having it run through a mall, no matter how nice said mall is.

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit on the gondola.  The symbolic iron head used on the gondola, the one on the end opposite the “driver”, is made of iron.  It’s used to offset the wait of the gondolier and it’s also a stylized map of Venice.  The six strips of the “comb” represent different neighborhoods and the longer strip represents the Island of Giudeca.  Then there is the double “S” that has bends representing the Grand Canal and dogal horn that represents that Rialto Bridge.  “Dogal” means belonging to the doge, which was the ruler of Venice or Venezia.  You could still visit the Doge’s Palace today, via gondola – with or without the singing.

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One Response to “Row, Row, Row…”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Body by Italy « Trip Ahoy! - 2011/06/25

    […] Riding a traghetto across the Grand Canal A traghetto (pronounced “trah-jet-toe”) is a gondola powered by a gondolier. The difference is that these gondola are available at key points along the […]

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