The ABCs of: Gondolas in Venice

April 2, 2019

Venice is one of the world’s most unique cities, owing that title to the canals and waterways that connect its homes and businesses. One of the most memorable experiences you can have in this Northern Italian city is a gondola ride, gliding through the canals in an oar-powered boat while marvelling at the ancient city’s architecture. Here are three things to know before you hop on board:

Always an option

No matter what time of year you’re visiting Venice, you’ll be able to take a gondola ride. Because of Venice’s bustling tourism industry, gondolas are a mainstay no matter the season. In fact, taking a gondola ride in the winter might prove especially appealing to those who want to enjoy a bit more peace and quiet during a less busy time of year.

Balettas and beyond

When gondolas were the main form of transportation in Venice, there were close to 10,000 in the city’s canals. Now, locals mainly take motorized boats from place to place, and the number of gondolas has shrunk to around 500 — still plenty to service visitors, however. Most of the boats on the water currently are technically gondolas, which are the long, banana-shaped boats you may be familiar with from postcards. But there are other types of boats on the canal: balettas, which are slightly smaller than gondolas (but similarly shaped); pupparins (mainly for nobles and aristocrats) and pupparinos (mainly for solo rowers); mascaretas (similar to gondolas, but with a flat rather than curved bottom), and more.

Canal to canal

If you’d like to ride a gondola through the Grand Canal, you’ll want to go early in the day before it gets bustling. Or, walk the streets that line Venice’s smaller canals — like side streets, but filled with water — for a quieter city experience. Your CEO will be able to recommend good areas to hop on and off, and will have information about prices and how to tip your gondolier. Enjoy!

Getting there

Take a gondola ride through Venice and more on a trip with National Geographic Family Journeys with G Adventures, a new line of trips for adventure-loving families in search of a meaningful way to discover the world together. With itineraries inspired by National Geographic's expertise in photography and storytelling, wildlife, culture, history, and geography, these trips let families connect with the world and each other.

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