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!
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 🙂
These guys will exhibit the same rowing skills.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!