Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Truth About Gondolas

Since we’re on a Venice kick lately, let’s explore the Gondola phenomenon. Someone made a comment about the gondolas being expensive and as I was answering her comment, I realized I had much to say, so I decided to write an entry about it for those who may be going to Venice and considering riding a gondola.

Let me start off by saying that the gondola rides in Venice can be described in two words: RIP OFF. On my website I have a page entitled “The Best and Worst of Europe”, in which I give my choices for the best and/or worst that Europe has to offer in various categories. My pick for “Worst Tourist Attraction” is a gondola ride in Venice.

Gondolas - avoid them if you can help it

People ask me all the time about the gondolas. “Is it worth it?” they ask. Here’s my standard reply: “Have you ever ridden in a canoe? Would you pay 120 bucks to ride in a canoe for a half and hour?” If the answer is no, then don’t ride a gondola. The current rate for a gondola ride is a whopping 80 Euros. Unfortunately, many people get scammed into paying as much as 100 Euros or more for a ride. I just can’t fathom paying that much.

I rode a gondola on my first foray into Venice back in September of 2000. At the time, it cost us 120,000 lire, which was about 60 bucks. There were 4 of us so we split the cost and each paid 15 bucks. The guy said the ride would last an hour. We hopped in and rode down a small canal, into the Grand Canal, then back. The entire ride took 40 minutes. I got out of the gondola thinking “I paid 15 bucks for that?!” So can you imagine how much more disgusted I’d have been if I’d paid over 100 bucks? The gondoliers are the richest guys in all of Venice. Many of them make up to 300,000 Euros or more and don’t even work the whole year.

Of course, I realize it’s Venice and if you go, you just HAVE to ride a gondola, if only for the photo op. And so, I don’t fault anyone for doing it. And fortunately, many people do ride them, which has provided me with many good photo ops over the years of gondolas making their way through the canals. But if you can resist the temptation, don’t do it. Venice is extremely expensive and that 80-100 Euros could be much better spent.

A Vaperetto - Venice's best and cheapest form of public transportation

If you just want the experience of riding the water in Venice, buy a ticket to the vaporetto, which is like a water bus. 5 euros will get you a ticket that’ll take you all the way down the Grand Canal. Or ride a traghetto, which is a public gondola that crosses the Grand Canal in a handful of places. That way you can have the experience of riding in a gondola, although it’s a shorter ride and there’ll be other people in the gondola with you. The price? 40 cents.

Rik

9 comments:

schatzli said...

but people ride gondola for the feeling of romance and they are willing to pay for that...

nah I will take the water taxi!
GREAT PICS

Dutched Pinay on Expatriation said...

Rik,

My father in law says the SAME thing! For €80-100 you can have a nice dinner for two + pub crawl, and that lasts at least 4-5 hours compared to a 30 minute ride.

Sha,

When are we going to Venice? Oh wait, Oslo first. Oh no, how about Amsterdam in 2 weeks? Want to join us? Puhlease!

Rik said...

No, you should all come to Venice! I'll be your tour guide, Venice is my bitch...

Rik

Ed Abbey said...

I haven't been to Venice but I know what you say is true. There is something like that at every tourist trap around the globe. Unfortunately, my wife falls for things like that more easily than I do. I would rather take the money and build myself a gondola. Do you need a license to paddle one of those things in Venice? If not, maybe I need to move there and rob tourists for a living!

Rik said...

ED - Yeah, not just anyone can become a Gondolier in Venice. You have to be licensed, which includes passing a rigorous Gondola training school and then passing some kind of test. There are no female gondoliers either - technically anyone can be a gondolier as long as they pass everything. But there's a woman who has tried several times to become a gondolier and each time she takes the test, she fails. Most people say it's because the Italians want to keep it traditional (read: male).

Rik

schatzli said...

Yesterday we were reading about Venice best places to stay. hmm

and we brought our Saveur magazine with has a venice special.. not much on pub crawl ( I wont tell you what happens to me when I start drinking LOL)... but a CULINARY CRAWL OF VENICE

amsterdam vs venice.. think the italian vino will win ;-)

whose going to amsterdam? been 20 since I first saw that city...

DL said...

I am drooling badly right now. Venice is a very romantic place. Hubby said that the canal stinks though, But I told him just one gondola ride and I will be very happy. They started the appllication for business/work permit in Prague. There seem to be a little issue but the hubby really wants the job simply because Europe travel is a priceless experience.

Rik said...

Scha - Venice is not known for it's cuisine. In fact, the Italians have a saying about Venice: "Si spenda tanti e si mangia male", which translates as "You spend a lot and you eat badly".

DL - If you go to Venice and want to do a romantic gondola ride, hey, I won't try to talk you out of it. But I'd rather spend the 100 bucks on a nice canalside dinner with the wife...

Rik

DL said...

A dinner with your wife and the babies sounds like a plan. I'm really scared and would hate any rejection with regards to application for work permit. Right now, I won't take no. :( That's why I'm praying hard.

Our plan is to get accustomed to Prague within the first month before going out of Prague. The first place that hubby wants to visit outside Prague is Munich. Then after that we'll probably go visit Venice.