For some reason, I always pictured going for a gondola ride at night, so I was pretty surprised that Venice’s canals were completely still and empty after sunset. Perhaps that was because we visited in the off-season, but when we asked the man at our hotel’s front desk when he would suggest we hire a gondola, he looked puzzled. “During the day… otherwise you won’t see anything…” A fair point, given that the canals appear to be a black pit of darkness after nightfall.
In the end, I adjusted my gondola expectations and we went in the late morning, which was pretty awesome — Not at all romantic, because other tourists are constantly snapping photos of you from the bridges as you pass underneath, but a very cool experience to see the city from the water. The gondoliers themselves are also impressive: They effortlessly maneuver the boats through very tight spaces, tell you a bit about what you’re seeing and seem to speak multiple languages (we heard one guy chatting with his passengers in mandarin). Our gondolier had to repeatedly tilt our boat to the side to get the tall bow to fit under the bridges, given the high water level. At one point, which you’ll see below, the gondolier asked Gui to move to the front of the boat to lower the bow with his weight so we could fit under one particularly tricky bridge.
Be warned: You’ll pay way too much for the gondola experience — 80 euros per boat for a little over 30 minutes on the water — but with a six-person maximum it’s not so bad if you have a larger group. Also be prepared to feel a bit like you’re in Disneyland as you wait in the queue for a gondola, make a circle around the city and then disembark so the next group can climb aboard. We were lucky that our gondolier took us on a quiet canal with fewer boats, but we spied many gondola traffic jams from land while we were walking around town. Everyone wants their iconic gondola ride! It’s definitely an experience and one that I would still wholeheartedly recommend, despite the high price. But in case Venice isn’t on your itinerary quite yet, float along with us in the photos below. Ciao!