Riding a traditional Venetian gondola is sure to be on most people’s bucket list while traveling to Venice. Here are my tips to have a great time!
With a rich history spanning as far back as the 11th century, the gondolas of Venice are a thing of beauty. Taking a gondola ride was the activity we were most looking forward to in Italy.
Gliding down Venice’s narrow canals, admiring the beautiful architecture, and relaxing to the sound of a classic Venetian song. It doesn’t get much better!
Renting a gondola is one of the top things to do in Venice while visiting Italy.
In this guide, I’ll share tips on how to get the most from your gondola experience in Venice.
Italy Travel Restrictions 2021
Italy is open to most travelers again, including American tourists. However you do need proof of your COVID-19 vaccination(s) or a negative test result before being allowed entry.
Many hotels, attractions, and private tours are open with new health & safety protocols in place, and you still have to follow certain guidelines.
You can find the latest updates on traveling to Italy here.
The Venice Gondola Experience
History Of The Venetian Gondola
Each part of a traditional Venetian gondola has a specific function; from the iron prow which balances against the weight of the gondolier, to the eight types of wood used in construction to ensure a smooth trip.
Centuries of refinement have turned the gondola into what we see today.
Such was the sheer variety of gondolas, that 10,000 gondolas are estimated to have been in operation during the 1500s, with the current design only perfected during the 20th century.
There are approximately 500 gondoliers working in Venice — the trained men (and a woman!) who pilot these unique craft.
Each gondolier is part of a guild, spending 6 months and 400 hours of training to learn the skills needed. Next, an apprenticeship is undertaken before the gondolier is able to take the helm of an actual gondola.
The boats themselves cost an astonishing €20,000 – €35,000 EUR! One reason why rides are so expensive…
An estimated 20 million tourists visit Venice every year, producing a strong demand that keeps the magic of Venetian gondolas alive and thriving.
Should You Rent A Gondola In Venice?
While you can certainly say renting a gondola in Venice is an expensive tourist trap, in my opinion, it’s also a very unique travel experience in Europe.
If you’re genuinely curious about history and culture of Italy, renting a gondola in Venice at least once is totally worth it. We actually went twice while we were in town for the Venice Carnival.
Gondolas were reserved for the elites of Venice, as they traversed these same waterways on their way to lavish parties, public fistfights, and to get around a network of islands in style.
It’s an activity that you can truly only enjoy properly in Venice. Those “gondola” rides (ha!) at Las Vegas’s Venetian Hotel just aren’t the same…
It’s like visiting the Colosseum in Rome. It’s just something you have to do when you visit Italy!
How Much Does A Gondola Ride Cost
Official rates for gondola rides are set by the City of Venice, and you’ll see them posted on signs near the docks.
Gondola trips start at €80 EUR for 30 minutes. Additional 20-minute increments are €40. After 7pm, the base rate climbs to €100 EUR, with €50 for an additional 20 minutes.
Singing during your ride often costs extra, usually another €20 – €30 EUR. But not all gondoliers sing so make sure to ask beforehand. We got lucky and ours did!
Up to six people can share a gondola — so sharing with a group will save you some money.
The Public Traghetto
Another, lesser-known option is the traghetto. This is the public version of a gondola that ferries people across canals. It’s a much shorter ride, without the fancy decorations, and locals prefer to stand up.
You’ll find a handful of traghetto piers if you keep your eye out for them. This is how you cross a canal when there is no bridge nearby. The ride costs only €4 EUR.
The most common routes for these are: Pescaria (Rialto fish market) – Santa Sofia (near Ca’ d’Oro), and San Tomà – Sant’Angelo. But there are others around too.
What To Expect On A Gondola Ride
By law, the color of gondolas in Venice is black. Six coats of black paint to be exact. This was to help prevent unfair competition.
When you first board your sleek black gondola, you’ll see that it has plush seating and is covered in gold decorations. Most have blankets during the fall & winter.
Your gondolier will be wearing the traditional costume of black pants and a striped shirt, possibly a straw hat.
If you get a good gondolier, they may act as a tour guide, sharing the history of the buildings you pass along the way. Many gondoliers speak multiple languages too.
If you get a bored or grumpy one, they might not talk at all.
Some gondoliers sing for free, most will probably want an extra tip, some just don’t sing no matter what you do.
If you book a gondola ride along the famous Grand Canal, it’s bound to be very busy with other boats, and not the most romantic experience. Try to find a less-busy location on the smaller canals for some romance.
Useful Venice Gondola Tips
- There are tons of gondola stations (servizio gondole) on the canals in Venice. I recommend one away from the Grand Canal, in a quieter area.
- There’s something extra special about floating the canals in a gondola early in the morning before tourists take over. Sunset can also be good.
- Up to 6 people can share a Venice gondola. If you’re traveling alone, teaming up with others from your hostel can help drive down the price!
- To truly enjoy the magic of a gondola ride through Venice, tip the gondolier so they will be more likely to sing for you. It’s worth it in my opinion.
- While it can be tempting to take a million photos while floating the canals, remember to put the camera down to truly enjoy the experience.
- You can find wheelchair-accessible gondolas at the Gondolas4all Pier just South of the Hotel Santa Chiara. Here’s the location on Google Maps.
Private Venice Gondola Rides
Don’t want to risk a bad ride? You can book your own private gondola ride with guaranteed singing as well as a dinner and prosecco: ➜ BOOK IT HERE
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READ MORE ITALY TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed my guide to Venice gondola rides! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
- Best Things To Do In Venice
- Hiking Tre Cime Di Lavaredo
- Italy’s Beautiful Lago Di Braies
- Matera: Italy’s City Of Caves
- How To Choose A Travel Backpack