Day 2 in Venice: Yes, Gondolas!

I’m one of those incredibly fortunate people who’ve visted Venice before. The first time was the fall of 1996, on my honeymoon with a guy who didn’t want to ride in a gondola because it was 1. too touristy and 2. too expensive.

I accepted that logic, but I secretly always regretted not experiencing a ride in a gondola, mainly because I told myself that I’d never be back, that Venice was a once-in-a-lifetime offer, and I’d used mine up and blew my chance. Besides, it looked like total fun.

The Former Husband Guy had a point. Gondola rides are touristy, if you define touristy as something tourists do. And the gondola rides can be expensive, like more than $100 for a couple of people.

A word about the touristy part. In Venice, locals do use the waterways for everything. No cars. Just boats, and the boats  transport everything: garbage, laundry, fish, coffins, commuters, and packages. And people. Sometimes in gondolas.

Lo and behold, I got a miracle of a second chance to visit Venice on my way to Turin for the Slow Food conference. And while there, son Joe and daughter-in-law Marie started talking about a gondola ride. Despite all those years of wishing I’d done the “schmaltzy touristy” gondola thing, I heard the words of protest leave my mouth: 1. it’s too touristy, and 2. it’s too expensive.

I was overruled. Thank goodness. Joe and Marie treated us to agondola ride, and even upgraded it to one that would travel the more quiet parts of the city, to places where the only sounds were soft dip of the gondaliere’s paddle into the canal.

Here’s my travel advice regarding Venice (and not a word about phones, you’ll be glad to hear): If you are in Venice, and the weather is gorgeous, as it was for us, a perfect 70-something degrees, and if you have a chance to ride in a gondola, go for it. Get a cheaper room, eat more pizza-by-the-slice from sidewalk stands and less sit-down dinners. Do you whatever possible to scrape together the money and book that ride. I mean, if riding in a gondola appeals to you.

That advice goes for any place – a county fair, a hot air balloon festival, a long-awaited trip – where there’s some special playful thing that you’d like to do, but your practical, parental side intervenes. Pay particular attention if that side of yourself scolds that you need not see or do whatever you had in mind because it’s too spendy or silly or unnecessary or frivolous.

See it. Do it. Experience it.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen tomorrow. All we have is today.

And the gondola.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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20 Responses

  1. Love this advice! Thanks for the reminder and the pics.

  2. Good for you, Doni! I lived in Venice when I was in college but never went for a gondola ride, either, because I was a student and we either took vaporetti or walked everywhere. Now I would totally do it!

  3. Avatar leelee says:

    How right you are Doni, I kick myself for allowing the practical side get in the way of enjoying a complimentary Ballon ride. Oh well, life is not over with yet! 😉

  4. Avatar Marilyn A says:

    Yes, indeed, a very memorable experience. Our goldolier was softly singing Italian love songs and his voice echoed from the quiet narrow walls of the canals – so lovely and romantic… I will always remember this as a special evening in my life.

  5. Avatar Chris B. says:

    It's a total life experience thing that you'll relive mentally over and over again which makes it a bargain. In New York, you must go to the top of the Empire State Building, ride a camel in Egypt, etc. Touristy yes? Unforgettable? Also yes.

  6. Avatar Robyn says:

    Alhamdulillah Doni,

    I'm so happy for you. We are never guaranteed a second chance, and those are the things we always regret…what we did not try. Inshaa allah we can all get a chance to do that "thing" we always wish we had of done. Life is too short, you must dive in!!! Enjoy it Doni!

    Salam aleikum

  7. Avatar Kerri says:

    Love this, and love you. Life is too short to skip the gondola. You are worth it!

  8. Avatar Ginny says:

    So happy that Joe and Maria wanted the ride! You go for what makes your heart happy. Tomorrow is today!

    Love & God's Blessings to the three of you~

  9. Avatar JohnZ says:

    It's anyone's guess what will happen tomorrow. All we have is today

    Amen to that!

  10. Avatar Tammy D says:

    Great advice Doni!

  11. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I love the pictures! The picture of the side of that pink building with the green (or are they blue like the sky) shutters is so lively.

  12. Avatar Robb says:

    Impressive, but folks here in Shasta have one question you didn't answer….

    How are the bass biting?

  13. don williams don williams says:

    Venice would not be Venice without a gondola ride. You might as well not even go. Enjoy your trip and say hello to Joe and Maria

  14. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:

    A lesson worth living over and over and over and . . . . .

    I remember asking my daughter, after she came home from Europe for the second or third time while still a student at Chico, "how can you afford to do that?" To which she answered, " . . . if it's something you really want to do, you do it. You'll always figure out how to pay for it after you come home and five years from now the cost won't make any difference!" Seemed she had learned more lessons t 20 than I had t 50!!!

    P.S.MarilynA and I both agree that you should think about putting together a slow food tour of Italy.

    • Avatar Marilyn Traugott says:

      And Marilyn T as well… Now you have at least 3 of us signed up.

      Love your adventures and your wise words, Doni.

  15. Doni I agree with you. Rhonda and I have also been to Venice twice and we did the gondola the first time and have not regretted it. Yes it was expensive and touristy but the gondola is "Venice". The second time we went with the Cannons and they didn't do it for the same reason you mentioned in your article. But, I bet they too regret not taking the gondola ride.

  16. Avatar Canda says:

    Doni, that photo of you, Joe, and Marie in the gondola says it all-pure enjoyment. So happy for you guys! Much love to you all.

  17. Avatar RMV says:

    God Bless Lady, Enjoy!

    HURRY HOME. the wood guy.

  18. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    Words to live by, no doubt.

  19. Avatar Roger says:

    Right on 🙂 Don't dream your life – live your dream…. but the right company is important too. Enjoy Torino.