Undoubtedly, the gondola is the ultimate symbol of Venice. It’s hard to imagine that the sleek black vessels used to be colourful in the past. The noble families who owned gondolas used them as a means to show off their power thus turning their lush decoration and vivid colours into some kind of competition. It was in the early 1600s when the Senate decided to bring this competition to an end by forbidding all other colours but black. Evidently, a gondola ride is among the top things to do in Venice.
When we started planning our trip to Venice we weren’t sure whether we should include a gondola ride or not. We had read so much about it being an overpriced tourist trap and all. Then again, it would be our first time in Venice, damn it. Moreover, it would be one of our shortest trips to Italy ever and as such we could indulge in a bit of splurge. So, we decided we should go for it. But what would be the best gondola experience for our money’s worth? We soon decided against paying in advance for a shared gondola ride. Doing so would eventually cost more per person and we would have to be squeezed in a gondola with a bunch of complete strangers (gondolas can carry a maximum of 6 passengers).
There are gondoliers waiting to take you for a ride literally everywhere in Venice. There is no need to book ahead. Just choose one of them and make sure that he will charge you the official rates: 80€ for a 30′ ride, while after 19:00 you get to pay 100€ for 35′ (April 2018). A gondola ride during sunset costs an extra 20€ which is totally and undeniably worth it. Also, it’s best to ask your gondolier to take you to some smaller Venice canals rather than the Grand Canal. Save the latter for a vaporetto ride or a Venice boat tour.
Now you may wonder: Will a random gondolier live up to my expectations? Well, if you want to be on the safe side, there is one gondoliere who will turn your private gondola ride into an once in a lifetime experience. Before our trip to Venice, I stumbled upon a handful of TripAdvisor reviews about this particular gondolier everyone was raving about. We knew we had to find him so we sent him an e-mail at [email protected]. Luca replied almost immediately to our e-mail. He provided us with a full list of the official rates and the suggested routes. Luca was extremely polite and he gave us detailed directions to our meeting point. He even attached a map and a photo of himself so as not to miss him.
Luca met us at Campo Ghetto Nuovo. He then took us on a gondola ride along the peaceful canals of the Cannaregio district. Luca talked to us about his beautiful gondola which was passed on to him from his grandfather. He also shared with us beautiful stories and information about the buildings we saw in his sweet Venetian accent. Luca went so far as to make our gondola ride all the more memorable by singing a traditional Venetian song to us. Mind you, this was not part of any previous agreement. He just felt like it. It goes without saying that he charged us the official rate and nothing more for what must be the best gondola ride in Venice.
Looking back on our initial doubts, we can honestly say that our trip to Venice would not be the same had we not taken this private gondola ride. It’s an experience like no other and very high on our list of top things to do in Venice. It was mesmerising. All we could hear was the gentle sound of the water as the slender gondola caressed its surface. As for our eyes, they were filled with the enchanting beauty surrounding us. One last thing. Although we firmly believed that a private gondola ride is something you only do once, we’re sure that we will be e-mailing Luca before even booking a hotel next time we are in Venice.