Pretty much everything my kids knew about Venice prior to this trip came from the awesome children’s book. “Olivia goes to Venice” by Ian Falconer. They knew that you could get pizza and gelato everywhere, that there are pigeons in St Mark’s Square and that you should never remove one of the bricks from the bell tower as a souvenir. And they also knew that when you went to Venice, you couldn’t leave without riding a gondola.
I have actually never ridden in a gondola in any of my previous visits. It had always seemed like too much of an indulgence for something so touristy, but one good thing about traveling with four people is that costs for some things begin to look more reasonable when you divide it into a group of four. I sort of regretted not doing a gondola ride on my last trip with just me and my husband, so I had decided that this time we weren’t going to miss it.
I had initially booked a ride with Venice’s only female gondolier, Alex Hai. She has a website and operates independently and it looked like it would be an interesting option. She was very responsive to emails and offered us a price of 130 Euros for 60 minutes, which seemed very reasonable since the official rate is 80 Euro for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, we booked for Saturday night and that was the night the heavens opened up and ten minutes outside left us looking like we had gone swimming in the canal. Alex was very accommodating about cancelling the booking, but we were unable to find a time to re-book. If we come back again, I’d love to give her a try.
We ended up just walking along the main road and letting the kids pick the fanciest looking gondola available. We did the 30 minute tour which included a short swing down the Grand Canal and then a peaceful ride through some quiet canals in the northern part of town. The gondolier we chose was pleasant but not super chatty. He pointed out a few famous buildings, but mostly we just enjoyed the ride and let the kids chatter away in the front. I think their favourite part was when he made these calls that were sort of like verbal turn signals whenever he came to a sharp corner to avoid collisions in the blind corners.
Overall we really enjoyed the experience and felt it was worth the cost. It was by no means essential if we were on a tighter budget, but since we’re staying at fairly low cost lodgings and saving money by cooking some of our meals at home, I didn’t feel guilty about spending more on a 30 minute experience than I used to spend in one day as a backpacker. And perhaps doing the 30 minute trip turned out better than the 60 minute trip in the end since the kids were starting to fuss and bicker over space in the last few minutes of the ride anyway.
And now I can tick one more thing off my bucket list! Now if only I could stay at the Hotel Danieli for 80 Euros! Oh well, maybe next time.