How to Find a Hot Gondolier

The highlight of our recent Venice trip was our gondola ride. It is a little cheesy & cliche, but it really is an essential Venetian experience. In our last post we even likened skipping it to going to Paris and ignoring the Eiffel Tower. So go out there, invest the money & do it!

Now that that’s decided, we know you have one burning question: How do I get as lucky as you with my gondola man? Ok maybe not all of you are asking that. Many people flock to Venice to enjoy moonlite rides with their lover. This article isn’t for them. This is for people like us…girls who don’t have a man to take them on a romantic ride and need to find other means of entertainment. For those girls…first, they are called gondoliers, gondola man is just a fun phrase we like to use 🙂 Second, it is not luck at all! It is a well calculated formula that leads to our success!

There are 405 gondoliers in Venice. That may sound like a lot, but then think of the size of the city. And remember how many tourists pass through this city every year! And finally, compare it to the several thousand that patrolled the canals in the 16th/17th centuries. It seems like a much smaller number now, eh? But you need to pick just one. Here are a few tips to use along the way so you may be as successful as us!

Tip #1:
Be informed!
You should know that becoming a gondolier is not an easy career path. Before you can start sailing the waterways of Venice you have to complete several steps…(1) 6 month course at the Comune di Venezia where the men learn the all important art of rowing (2) lessons in the history of Venice (3) proficiency in at least one foreign language (4) informal singing lessons (5) learn the ins and outs of all of the canals sprawling throughout Venice. And after all of this the potential gondoliers must complete a rigorous exam where they take examiners on a ride around the city. Even minor mistakes, such as one bump into a wall or another boat, can cause a hopeful to fail. And then once you’ve passed your exam, a gondolier must complete 180 days as a substitue before they can start running their own boat. It’s no wonder that there are only 3 to 5 new gondoliers each year!
But what does this mean to you? It means you don’t have to worry about quality of the ride. Each gondola man will be able to maneuver his boat in ways you don’t think should be possible. You will have a safe & smooth journey with any one you choose, therefor you can decide on your guide based on much more frivolous means 🙂
20111019-223021.jpg 20111019-222539.jpg
These guys will exhibit the same rowing skills.

Tip #2:
Don’t be afraid to shop around!
Gondoliers can be found littered throughout the city. There are stands along the Grand Canal, booths on smaller waterways and individuals hanging out at the ends of little rivers. If you have a few days in Venice you don’t have to take your ride the first day. Use your first few days to scope out where the best looking men can be found. It’s like window shopping before you chose the best store. If you only have one day just make sure you have your eyes open while you do your initial touring. You can go back late in the day and find that ideal gondolier you spotted in the morning. If he’s not there right when you get there just mill around for awhile. He might have a client out with him, but he will be back to his departure point eventually. And you will be waiting!
A big-time Grand Canal gondola stand.

Tip #3:
Work the “side streets”!
This tip doesn’t just apply to the superficial looks department but also to your wallet so listen up with this one! There is a hierarchy when it comes to gondolier placements. Each gondolier licence is for a specific location. This is the spot where the gondola man will park his boat, hang out and pick up his customers. The licences for spots along the Grand Canal cost much more than the random spots on what we like to call the “side streets”. These smaller canal branches will therefor often have cheaper or softer rates for rides. The Grand Canal gondoliers need to charge more to make back the extra cost.
This fact also affects what type of gondola man you will find in each location. You have to work your way up to the prestigious, major tourists locations. New guys will be stuck on the off water ways. And in most cases, new equals young. And often young equals almost indecently good-looking. The bottom line: side streets equals hotter, cheaper gondoliers!
He probably has a side street location!

Tip #4:
Don’t settle for less than the best!
This one seems pretty obvious, but is probably the most important. If the gondola man does not seem good enough for you, then don’t go with him. Keep looking until you are completely satisfied.
And remember that this doesn’t just apply to physical looks…although that is what this article appears to focus on. Don’t settle for someone who is not wearing obvious gondolier stripes. If you like the blue stripes better than the red ones (like we do) then don’t settle for a guy in red, no matter how cute he is. You want your photos to end up just like you always imagined them, so make sure he actually has the straw hat. If he has it in an obvious place, then he will probably wear it for at least part of the ride. If he’s wearing it when you start, then all the better!
Oh an one more important thing, make sure his English is good. You don’t want to be getting a tour from someone you can’t understand!
The perfect look!

Tip #5:
Visit our tried, true & trusted location!
If you are not in a hunting mood, or just really like the look of the last man (who was our gondolier) you could just go where we caught our gondola ride. We have seen more than one dreamboat take off from this tiny canal…and no duds… Go to Campo Santo Stefano square. It is just off the Accademia Bridge (to the North). Here you will see the end of the Rio dell’Orso. That’s were the hot man park their gondolas…and sometimes lean seductively on the railing/wall.
We ate at the restaurant right in the square too. It was delicious. And the hot gondola men ate there too, so we had plenty of time to size them up 😉

Oh and a tip for the men…
Tip #6:
There is at least one female gondolier!
We saw her with our very eyes! Scope her out if you want her…we’re sure you can find her location online. We just weren’t concerned with finding it ourselves.

And just in case this post has inspired you to seek out a new career path as a gondolier, here is a handy link that explains all of the steps quite well. Although we should warn you that gondoliering is usually a family business, a skills passed from father to son with licences even being willed on when a gondola man passes away!

Love & Luck in your hunting!

They should have to pay us to take picture of him!

Seeing as we had already spent two full days in Venice, we weren’t in to much of a hurry to get started this morning. We slowly got ready and ate breakfast while Kristin & Justine did laundry. There was a handy coin washer/dryer in the hotel so the girls decided they couldn’t pass up an opportunity for clean clothes. We then caught the bus to the island…which arrived right as we got to the bus stop. We must have some fancy bus mojo or something.

We only had a short list of things to accomplish today so we decided to start by just wandering. We ended up going in the opposite direction we meant to and got to see some new areas…and new stores 😉 Eventually we set our sights on the familiar part of the city and shopped our way over there. Bev had made a list of everything she still wanted to purchase for souvenirs and presents and Kris & Justine had added their wish-list to it so we were very organized shoppers.

Getting into Venice later meant that it wasn’t long until lunchtime. When we decided we were hungry we happened to be right by the Accademia bridge. If you recall, this is where we ate lunch the day before yesterday. We have settled into a habit of acting like locals and wanting to be restaurant regulars…just like at dinner yesterday, we not only ate at the same place but also at the same table. We split two pizzas among the four of us (spicy salami and margherita) and sipped bellinis. We had decided that only having a bellini once during our Italy trip was simply not enough!
20111019-201002.jpg 20111019-201007.jpg
You may also recall that it was sitting at this very restaurant that Kristin snapped our ideal canal/gondola/gondolier photos. And it was at that very table where Kris & Justine giggled over the attractive gondola man. Today was no different. We were on attention, watching for our beloved gondola man to return to the same spot as the day before. It never happened, but we got so much better! Up the canal rowed a muscular, young stallion. And following his gondola was another young dreamboat. And then a third gorgeous, young man wandered across the square to join the other two for some lunch at our favorite lunch spot. Somehow we had found the hangout of the Hot Gondola Man Club.
20111019-201029.jpg 20111019-201038.jpg

The main activity we had planned for today was to ride a gondola. At first we had considered not doing it, as it can be quite expensive, but then we thought about it and really, isn’t going to Venice and not riding a gondola kind of like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel tower? We had decided it was an investment worth making and had our eyes open for a gondolier to hire. Kristin & Justine were in charge of picking, although Bev also agreed that she did not want to ride with the creepy, short, fat guy. Stumbling upon the HGMC (Hot Gondola Man Club) was encouragement enough to do it immediately.

We were ushered into a boat by the dreamboat (aka the second guy to arrive) but it was not his boat. He already had a family in his. We ended up having the muscular, young stallion. *Giggle* He was dressed perfectly in his striped shirt (we later saw he was wearing 3 layers of striped clothing on…we noticed this when Justine & Kristin turned around at the perfect moment to watch him take off his shirt…well sweater…still *giggle*) and his flat, straw hat. And he could row like no ones business! Oh let’s just show you a photo:
The gondola ride itself was amazing. We went along the Grand Canal at a few points, such as at the Rialto bridge, but mainly stuck to the “side streets”. The stallion pointed out historically relevant buildings and often began to whistle, hum and sing to us. *Giggle*Giggle* It was interesting to see how many gondolas there are trolling about and that there can be traffic jams on canals as well as roads. At one point our progress was halted by a taxi (which is a motor boat in Venice) that was literally stuck between a wall & another boat. It had to be pushed out. In general, Venice is such a gorgeous city and the view from the water is really the way to see it! Do a gondola ride & do it with a member of the HGMC!
Here’s some pics of what we saw on our ride:
20111019-210029.jpg 20111019-210048.jpg 20111019-210109.jpg
Ok, here’s some pictures of the actual scenery:
20111019-210252.jpg 20111019-210303.jpg 20111019-210424.jpg 20111019-210432.jpg

Post gondola ride we were all a little giddy…even Harv, although his was just cause it was so much fun…not cause our gondolier was so attractive. We decided on some gelato to cool us down…or pump us full of sugar…hmm that one seems counterproductive so let’s stick with the first explanation. It was delicious, as gelato always is, but it couldnt rival the stuff from yesterday. We still stick to our recommendation of the place by the penny machine! Today’s flavors: strawberry (B), strawberry + lemon (K), coffee + lemon (J) and coconut (H).

Harvey had one request for things to do in Venice, and after he had followed us around shopping for two days and after listening to us giggling endlessly we let him chose an activity. We rode to the top of the Campanile Bell Tower. This bell tower replaced a shorter lighthouse that was once part of the original fortress/palace that guarded the entry of the Grand Canal. The lighthouse crumbled in 1902 after 1000 years and was replaced using many of the original materials.
We were very happy this tower had an elevator all the way to the top! From up high we were treated to wonderful panoramic views of the city. We could see the edge of the large lagoon around Venice (Venice and it’s entire lagoon has been UNESC’ed). From here we were also able to trace our activites over the past few days and figure out where we have been. Looking down at the city you would never guess there were canals instead of roads between the buildings.
20111019-205344.jpg 20111019-205359.jpg

We said farwell to St. Mark’s Square and made our way towards our favorite area around the Rialto Bridge for supper. Along the way we bought the remaining items on Bev’s to buy list and made some more last minute purchases. Walking along the canal we passed our favorite restaurant from the two nights before. They tried to escort Justine to our regular table. Literally the waiter offered her his arm. It was so cute. We had eaten everything we wanted to off that menu though so we tried another restaurant. We went with number two, aka the one we had thought had kind of pricey wine the night before. We sucked it up tonight though and it was worth it! The wine was great and the food was fantastic. Harvey & Bev shared the scallop risotto and spaghetti with bolognese. Kristin & Justine shared the scallop risotto and spaghetti carbonera. It was all creamy and cheesy and totally yumminess!
20111019-201234.jpg 20111019-201240.jpg
The restaurant next to us shared a menu and staff with our fav supper place. As we got up the greeting waiter pulled out a “Good night, see you tomorrow!” and when we told him we were leaving the next day he told us to add him on Facebook. We are bonding with random locals now apparently.

We got back to the hotel nice and early. There was lots to be done to get ready to leave in the morning. Justine and Kristin wasted no time packing up (they are definitely expert packers now!) We sipped the rest of our Limocello and organized all of our purchases to be sent back home with Harvey and Bev. There was enough stuff to almost completely fill up duffle bag! The evening ended with Bev showing us the pictures from the first part of their trip. Lots of pictures to get us excited for the next half of ours!

Random Observations:
– Lemon gelato is white and Vanilla gelato is yellow…does that make sense to anyone?

Love, Luck & Lorenzo…which is the name we have decided to give to the man who guided our gondola 😉
K&J + B&H

Look, it’s Albert Einstein…oh & there’s Johnny Weir.

We awoke ready for another fun-filled day in Venice. We rocked the hotel breakfast, although today they noticed that Justine & Kristin shouldn’t be staying at the hotel…however we think the waiter got really confused and never ended up charging us for their meals. Then we loaded onto the bus into town. Have we mentioned what good luck we have with these buses? They always seem to just show up right after we get to the bus stop…very convenient.

Today we decided to check out the public transport system in Venice. In a city of canals, this is composed of many motorized bus-boats called vaporetti. We hopped on at the train station and rode the number 1 line all the way down the Grand Canal. The ride was filled with churches and palaces, all elegantly designed and brightly colored. We also spotted many picture-perfect alleys & canals branching off among the fine (and less than fine) buildings.
20111019-174110.jpg 20111019-174141.jpg

We rode the bus-boat all the way to St. Mark’s Square and made our way through the crowd to St. Mark’s Basilica. The square was buzzing with activity, but nothing compared to the day before. It seems that there are always tons of tourists here, but it does get worse on the weekend. The long line for church entry moved quickly and we were inside in no time! St. Mark’s Basilica was built in the 11th century. The architecture of the church is noticeably different compared to the many other churches we’ve seen. The Eastern-style architecture shows Venice’s connection to the Byzantine Empire and how it resisted Charlemange and the Holy Roman Empire. The church acts as the final resting place of St. Mark; his bones have been here since 830.
The interior of the church glows. The floor is an elaborate pattern of colored tiles and the walls are set with marble panels of white, black, pink, & green. The ceilings are filled with gold mosaics. The flat roof, the inside of the domes, & the inside surface of the tops of arches are all completely covered in glittering tiles. There are 4750 square yards of Byzantine mosaics! Each depicts a biblical scene or the image of a saint. The detail work amazed us all and made us marvel at the time it would take to cement each tiny piece down.
(This is a photo from Kristin’s phone, hence the poorer quality, because pictures weren’t technically allowed in the church)
20111019-192259.jpg 20111019-192404.jpg
We decided to pay the small fee to visit the church’s treasury. Venetian crusaders looted the Christian city of Constantinople and brought home piles of lavish treasures. It was amazing to see these objects from a period when the rest of Europe was stuck in the Dark Ages. There was no shortage of gold and flawless cut crystal, but the most interesting pieces were even more organic… There was a collection of bones from various parts of various bodies. Each was placed in a container specially designed for that bone. It was odd & morbid….

We hopped back on the boat-bus and made our way to the island of Murano. Murano is located in the Venice lagoon separated from the hoards of tourists in the main city. This island is known for it’s glass blowing, as the people of Murano invented and perfected this technique. Getting off the boat we were escorted to a glass blowing demonstration. This was really neat. In a large warehouse three guys were hard at work. They had a large oven-thing that heats the glass to 1000 degrees celcius so it can be worked. Then it is rolled in colored glass beads to give color (duh!) and patterned effects. The glass is worked & heated several times before there is a finished product. It was interesting to see the blowing part as the master craftsman only gives the tiniest puff of air into it….not a huge lung full.
20111019-174340.jpg 20111019-174353.jpg

The rest of our time in Murano was spent shopping. There is a small canal that runs through the center of the island. It is lined with glass shop after glass shop, all advertising that their merchandise was made right on the island (as opposed to mass-produced in China). There were a lot of cute pieces of jewlery and interesting glass creations. Everything was made all the more interesting to see by our new glass blowing knowledge. We ate lunch sitting on the base of the tall white tower of the Murano dock. There was a cafe near by that sold us delicious paninis to go. We watched the boats scoot around the lagoon before catching our own bus-boat back to St. Marco’s Square.
20111019-174428.jpg 20111019-174437.jpg

Once at St. Marcos we changed bus lines and rode up the Grand Canal to the Rialto bridge area. Our first goal was to locate the penny machine. For those of you who don’t know Justine’s sister Alexa really well, you are probably clueless as to what a penny machine is. They are a device that takes a penny (in North America…here it is a 2 or 5 cent Euro piece) and presses it into a flat, smooth ellipse. While pressing it, it stamps the penny with a new image, such as: the word Venezia with a picture of the Rialto bridge. They’re a cool collectable and Alexa has about a million of them. Everyone in the family gets them for her when they travel, and we are trying to locate the machines throughout Europe. It’s made easier by the website That site gave us an address for the only penny machine in Venice and Justine Google Map’ed it…this all made finding it a synch! That down, we grabbed some gelato. If you are ever looking for Gelato in Venice go to the place on the same block as the penny machine! (You can look up the address on the previously mentioned website.) The gelato was so cold it didn’t melt in the whole time it took to eat it. It was also incredibly flavorful…the flavor was strong, accurate & incredibly delicious! Today’s flavors were: Coffee (H), Lemon (J), Pistachio (B), and Cookie Dough (K).
We spent the next few hours shopping. There are so many cute shops in Venice. You can walk through 3 blocks and pass a tacky souvenir store, blown-glass stores, medium-end clothing stores, a mask craftsman, an Italian leather shop and Gucci. It made for a fun afternoon…well maybe for everyone but Harv.

We decided we would eat supper along the Grand Canal agian. The ambience was so surreal the night before, plus it was chilly again and the canal side places have heaters by their outdoor tables! The first place didn’t have a four-person table available so we passed it by and tried the second. However, one look at the wine list had us up and out of our seats…we were not feeling like paying as much as they were asking when we knew the place just one down were charging way less! We tried the fourth place, but our table did not have sufficient heaters and the wine list was even worse price-wise. We vacated our second table of the night and went to the third restaurant on the strip, the same one we’d went to the night before. They recognized us, seated us at the same table and even made sure we sat in the same spots. Basically we’re becoming recognizable regulars here 😉
We decided to order off the menu, instead of getting the 3-piece meal. We split the seafood appetizer, which featured many different little creatures. It was really enjoyable, even if we didn’t always know what we were eating…
For the main course, Bev had lasagne, Kristin had cannelloni, Justine had spaghetti with clams (which had been so good when she’d had it the night before that she wanted to gobble down the full size tonight) and Harvey had spaghetti with cuttlefish.
The cuttlefish is the black one…looks really appetizing, eh? There’s something about black food that turned the rest of us off, but it tasted really good. In case you’re curious what a cuttlefish looks like, here is a picture from the Internet & one of them being sold at the market (that photo is from the future…aka tomorrow’s market). Cuttlefish are more related to squid and octopus than other fish and the black comes from it’s ink!
20111019-191231.jpg 20111019-174732.jpg

Love, Luck & Licorice Pasta?
K&J + B&H