No trip to Venice is complete without a ride on a gondola and our visit was no exception to this.
The stereotypical image of a romantic, peaceful ride down a sparkling canal with a mustachioed man crooning ‘Just one cornetto…” may be ever so slightly wide of the mark in 2017; nevertheless there’s still a special appeal to this traditional mode of transport and – despite spending the previous 24 hours on the water (what else are you gonna do in Venice?!) – we decided that our last full day just had to include a gondola ride.
Before going to Venice I had no idea about the history and traditions of the gondola and as such had no idea that my repertoire of striped clothing might see me mistaken for a gondolier! Live and learn.
Having spent the best part of the last three years in Asia I’ve got used to the whole concept of bartering. Although it’s lacking in Japan it’s still something I get to practice on the odd holiday out of the country and for some reason I had it in my head that the gondoliers would be lining up to undercut each other in order to get our custom.
Many people told me in the buildup to my trip that my wallet would take a spanking in Venice and although there was the standard mark up that is to be expected in a tourist destination, I didn’t think it was too bad in general.
As it happened though, the gondola business seems to be pretty strictly regulated and we had no choice but to pay what seemed to be the rather extortionate standard price of €80 for a 30 minute ride. Well, I say ‘we’…but what I should really be saying is ‘cheers Fred!’
Now I mentioned before the stereotypical image many people have of a gondola ride but I can honestly say our experience was a rather different one to that. While some people appeared to get the full shebang with a singing gondolier, we happened to end up with one of the less enthusiastic men in all of Venice.
That’s not to say he was a bad bloke, but let’s just say he could have been a little more upbeat. After all, if I was raking in €80 for half an hour’s work I’d certainly be a bit more chipper than he was! In his defence, when he wasn’t texting or on the phone, he was kind enough to point out where Marco Polo stayed and a few other major landmarks, but I didn’t quite fancy pushing it and asking for a sing-song!
In addition to the generally accepted opinion that Venice is a very pricey place, another thing I’d heard beforehand was that the city was a bit whiffy. I suppose any place with so much water would be prone to the odd smell, but I didn’t think it was too overpowering. It did get noticeably worse whilst we were on the gondola mind!
30 minutes came and went in the blink of an eye and before we knew it we were back where we started. It may have been overpriced and a little smelly at times, but it was a great end to a very special trip.