No trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride! While many visitors opt for a romantic, nighttime excursion in the soft moonlight with a serenading gondolier, a daytime tour is an excellent way to experience Venice up close and personal. Gazing up at the city from the water and gliding under a seemingly never-ending succession of bridges—each one unique—provides a completely different perspective than one gets when sightseeing on dry ground. Our group of six decided to go for the 60-minute private tour, all in one gondola. That option was fine for us as we wanted to share the experience as a family group. However, if your vision of a gondola ride is slightly more intimate than six folks loaded into one boat with four of those people seated on straight-backed chairs along the edges, you will likely want to book a tour for two. That said, we had great fun and saw a tremendous amount of the city in one hour. Our gondolier, Sandro, was informative and entertaining; he spoke perfect English, so communication was no problem at all. It was intriguing to watch the gondoliers interact when passing one another along the route. As they turned blind corners or slid into narrow spaces, the gondoliers would whistle or shout a warning. They chatted back and forth like old friends—as I am sure many of them are.
I booked our tour online ahead of time through Walks of Italy. We used the Danieli Gondola Service—located opposite the Hotel Danieli on the Riva degli Schiavoni. We boarded the gondola in St. Mark’s Basin a short distance from St. Mark’s Square, passed under the Bridge of Sighs, and traveled along many of the city’s smaller, interior canals. We saw several notable landmarks including the reputed birthplace of Marco Polo, the famous Venetian merchant and explorer. Overall, we found the entire experience to be agreeable—peaceful, relaxing, and enlightening. There are a number of unique itineraries for gondola tours, depending on which boarding point you choose. It is, therefore, wise to do a little homework before settling on a particular route. Be prepared to pay a bit, as gondola tours are not cheap—but the opportunity is not to be missed!
I had scheduled our gondola tour to immediately follow our guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral. As luck would have it, we were running a bit behind schedule and were late arriving at the loading dock. The confirmation paperwork I had received from Walks of Italy stressed the importance of a prompt arrival, so I was a bit worried that we would run into complications. Thankfully we were able to get right in, and our tardiness actually worked to our advantage since the majority of the other tourists were already on their way and the waterfront was much less crowded.
Hours later as I lay in bed, I could still “feel” the gentle rocking of the gondola!