Tips for Renting a Gondola in Venice and the History Behind This Age-Old Tradition

What’s the first thing you think about when someone mentions the city of Venice? A gondola ride, of course. What would a visit to Venice be without a gondola ride on its iconic waterways?

The city’s many architectural splendors are best viewed from its canals on a lazy gondola ride. Your Venetian experience wouldn’t be complete without exploring this legendary city’s labyrinth of canals and numerous historical sites.

What is it about the Venetian gondola?

Unlike many traditions from the 1500s, the gondola is still alive and well in the 21st century. The number of gondolas has been scaled down over time, however. The function of the gondola has changed. No longer the primary means of transport around the city, gondolas have become a tourist attraction.

Today, 500 gondoliers ply their trade to visitors to one of the world’s most romantic cities. These gondoliers undergo extensive theoretical and practical training during their apprenticeships. Gondolas cost a lot of money, so operators must be well-trained to avoid unnecessary damage to the vessels.

Renting a gondola

Be prepared to spend some money on a gondola ride as this activity doesn’t come cheap. The starting price hovers at about $100 for a half-hour gondola ride during the day. Another 20 minutes will cost $50. However, if you’re looking for an evening gondola ride, you’d better have deep pockets.

The starting rate is $120, with an additional charge of $60 for another 20 minutes. The good news is that six people can share a gondola, so clubbing as a group will save you some money.

If you want a singing gondolier, you’ll need to pay extra. Don’t assume that they all sing, either. Those that specifically want a singing gondolier should confirm beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Take the traghetto

If your finances don’t run to a gondola ride, try the traghetto. It’s a modified gondola that many Venetians use to traverse the city’s many canals when there is no nearby bridge. The ride is short, and there aren’t any frills. However, the price is $5 per ride, which can easily fit into the tightest of budgets.

What happens on a gondola ride?

Your gondola will feature luxurious seats, and most are full of gold decorations. Gondoliers wear a uniform of black pants and striped shirts. Some wear straw hats as well.

A lot of gondoliers are multilingual, and some will act as tour guides during your trip. They’ll point out the historic buildings and tell you about them. However, you shouldn’t expect all of them to offer this service.

During busy times, the canals become congested, and you might not get as far as you’d hoped. If you can, book the trip for a quieter period of the day. However, you’ll be missing the romance of a Venetian sunset onboard a gondola if you do.