Helpline Question of the Month: Suggestions for Gondolas in Venice?
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A few weeks ago, Ashe wondered if anyone might share tips for getting the best gondola experience in Venice. Here's what fellow travelers had to say...
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For those of you who have taken the gondolas, where did you start your ride? What did you pay? Did you negotiate? I'm asking because we visited Venice a couple of years ago, and the gondolas I saw were either in the busy, crazy Grand Canal or jammed up in a crowd in the side canals. Neither looked very romantic or appealing. I'm returning to Venice and need tips.
Now in US 1/22/10
1/22/10 6:39 PM
No more wishing, going back to Europe soon!
I forgot exactly where I got my gondola — it was a side canal not far off the Grand by a restaurant. You can start at many places in Venice. I tried to negotiate, but it didn't help. Paid over $100 for the ride. Yes they are all jammed up at the main places where they battle for your business, but they take off in different directions and you're pretty much in a quiet side canal for most of the trip.
Worth the $100+ for the one hour ride. Well, since my wife was with me, every penny!
1/23/10 5:46 AM
Palm Beach, Florida United States
Ashe: Just off the right rear section of Piazza San Marco is one of many Gondola spots. Prices really are not negotiable — pretty much flat as Steve suggested. Of course, in front of Piazza San Marco is a major pickup spot and, as you walk down the Riva degli Schiavoni (turn left as you walk from the square towards the water), there will be a number of other spots to grab a Gondola. As far as "jammed up" they do tend to be in one area.
The romantic part depends on who's in the Gondola, Ashe!!!!
1/23/10 3:53 PM
Seattle, WA USA
FYI, Gondoliers are basically a unionized monopoly in Venice (not that there's anything wrong with that), so that's why it's not usually any good trying to negotiate a lower rate. That said, I've heard that some people have had success doing just that at the smaller gondolier landings especially later in the day. The farther away from San Marco, the more likely to negotiate.
1/23/10 6:35 PM
My opinion is different, which makes the world go round. While very nice, I think it's a rip off. I have been to Venice many times, family there, and always take the taxi-boat. It's cheap, get you were you want to go, and see the same sights on the water without someone singing for tips.
1/27/10 11:48 AM
My husband and I spent 4 days in Venice last summer. At first it definitely seemed like a theme park type thing to do. It's definitely not appealing to me when they are going on the busy Grand Canal and the jam-packed side canals. Also, we observed as many tourists who were trying to negotiate had to walk away as gondoliers stated their price. However, after much observing every day, we ventured a bit farther back from the canal at night. So different in the evening! Definitely romantic and well worth the money.
We took ours from the Sempione restaurant (address is Ponte dei Bareteri, 578). There was barely anyone there but the gondoliers. The side canals were barely lit and SO QUIET! There: I've shared what maybe a well-kept secret. Enjoy!
1/27/10 12:46 PM
In our 5 visits to Venice, we've taken the gondola twice. It was a scenic way to see the city, but the boats move very slowly. Once was enough for me!
We went the second time, however, when we visited Venice last fall with our 10-year-old daughter; both she and my husband really wanted to take a gondola ride.
For each, we've chosen a gondola that's in a less-busy spot, and specified that we only wanted to go on the side canals. The first trip, we took the gondola from next to the Ca' d'Oro vaporetto stop. The second, we took a gondola that was moored off of Campa Santa Maria Formosa. During our rides, there were very few other gondolas on the canals that we were on; each trip, though, we were in Venice in mid-to-late September.
I would have been willing to negotiate, but each time, the price quoted was one that I felt was within the range that we expected, so I didn't. (Sorry, I didn't note what we paid.)
1/28/10 10:10 AM
Edina, MN USA
If you want the 'being on the canal in a small boat' experience, but don't want to spend the money — try taking a traghetto across the canal. There is a stop near Rialto Bridge, but they exist elsewhere, too. My cost in 2008 was only 1/2 a Euro and I thought it was a great deal AND lots of fun.
1/28/10 11:09 AM
Carbondale, IL USA
Laurie, on your traghetto ride, did you do like the natives and stand the whole way? ;-)
1/28/10 1:46 PM
Dallas, TX USA
If there is a cruise ship (or two) in port, the gondolas will be overrun by Japanese tourists, and boy can they cram a lot of people into one of those things. On days like that, the canals are jammed with gondola gridlock. Not a very romantic site. You might not get to see a lot of Venice from a gondola at one of these times. If you can, get a gondola ride late in the day or even at night. You might get more bang for your buck with a water taxi tour. Personally, I think it's a tourist trap, like Harry's Bar.
1/28/10 9:19 PM
I did the gondola (no singing just the sound of the water) ride when I was there in Sept. 2008. If I remember right it was like 3 or 4pm-ish...For me it was wonderful. We paid 70 euros — supposedly the guy knocked off 10 euros since I was with my then girl friend who was from Venice. Walking back and forth from the Rialto Bridge to St. Marks, there were a couple of them in the small quiet back canals. For most of the ride, we didn't see too many other gondolas and we could hear only Venice and the water...look up at the buildings, down little side canals and alleys where the Venetians lived. We did a little circle just out to the Rialto and the Grand Canal but most of the ride was in the back area. It was a beautiful memory of Venice that I will always have.
1/29/10 11:09 AM
I agree with Jeff, with so many things to see, do and enjoy in Italy, a gondolas ride is the last I would spend money on. Of course on your return friends will ask "Did you go on a gondola?" If that's important to you, then go for it. Enjoy your trip
1/30/10 5:08 PM
My husband and I visited Venice in September 2009 to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We did take a night time gondola ride which cost 130 euros. We tried to negotiate but did not succeed. We boarded on a less busy side street. We saw only a few other boats on our ride. It was a very peaceful ride — the gondolier sang softly and gave us some tidbits about Venice we were unaware of. Of course, it was way too expensive and we probably could have spent the money more wisely, but it seems a shame to travel there and not take a gondola ride. If I returned to Venice, which I most likely will not, I wouldn't take a second gondola ride but I am not sorry I splurged and took the ride when I had the chance.
1/30/10 6:14 PM
Dartmouth, MA USA
Hi Ashe, as you can tell from the previous posts, it is a matter of opinion, but for us the gondola ride was worth every penny. To answer your original post though, we were in Venice this past July and got our gondola just outside our hotel (American Denisen, which I also highly recommend) near Accademia for 70 euros, with very few tourists around. Like a previous poster said, we supposedly got a 10 euro discount, but my husband did take him for a beer after so it came out the same. Our gondolier took us briefly on the Grand Canal, but most of our ride was on the side canals, which we really enjoyed. He pointed out a lot of the sights to us and gave us a lot of info. He spoke very good English, which not all do, and this was a plus for us and made the ride memorable for both us and our kids.
We saw many areas that were crowed with tourists on the gondolas. But in the area where he took us, we were the only ones, once we were off the Grand Canal.
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