The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. The gondola is propelled like punting, except an oar is used instead of a pole. For centuries gondolas were the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice. In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in the city, serving as traghetti (ferries) over the Grand Canal.
Taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice can be very romantic, but it can also be costly. Here's some information to help you get the most out of your gondola ride. Gondola fares are standard and set officially. These are the minimum fares for a standard gondola ride but rates can go higher. A standard gondola ride is 40 minutes so if you negotiate for a lower fare, you'll end up with a shorter ride. Gondola fares are higher at night. Gondolas hold six people and can be shared without affecting the fee so you can save money by sharing a tariff with several people.
Most people recommend taking a gondola ride on the quiet, back canals rather than on the crowded Grand Canal. If you want to ride on the Grand Canal, a vaporetto is much less costly. Riding on canals outside the main tourist area lets you see a different view of Venice and there won't be bumper to bumper gondalas. Choose a gondola stop in the area you want to visit. If you want back canals, walk a few blocks off the main street (and away from San Marco) to look for a gondolier. Our Venice sestiere map and information can help you choose what neighborhood you want to explore.
A gondola is like a luxury car. Although black is the official color, many are ornately decorated and have comfortable seats and blankets. You can stroll around and look for one that suits your fancy. If all you really want to do is get into a gondola, you can take a traghetto across the Grand Canal. A traghetto is an empty gondola used to ferry passengers back and forth across the canal. While it might not be so romantic, it's much cheaper (currently 50 Euro cents) and you get a great view of the Grand Canal. Take a look at this video of crossing the Grand Canal on Traghetto Santa Sofia.
While gondolas were once regularly used by Venetians, especially of the upper classes, today vaporetti have become the main form of water transportation in Venice. A couple hundred years ago there were about 10,000 gondolas but today there are only about 500. A gondola is flat and made of wood. It's 11 meters long, weighs 600 kg and is hand built in special workshops called squeri of which there are still a few today. Gondolas are seen in festival parades and in regate or rowing competitions.
Venice gondola rides are without doubt the number one must-do experience in Venice. Gliding through serene waters, while serenaded by your gondolier, against the stunning backdrop of Baroque buildings is an experience you won¡¯t soon forget. Book through Local Venice Tours for the best prices.