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Gondola ride on the waterways of Venice

No trip to Venice is complete without taking a ride on one of the city’s iconic gondolas. Designed specifically for navigating the narrow Venetian waterways, these beautiful boats offer the opportunity to enjoy the city as it was intended to be seen, from the water. Although there are records of flat-bottomed boats in Venice as far back as the 11th century, the boat in its current form is thought to have been a feature of Venice since the 1500s. By the 1700s as many as 10,000 gondolas filled the canals of Venice and by the 1800s the boats had taken the uniform look that we see today. Each gondola is traditionally passed down from father to son and most boats have remained within the same family for generations.

Although most Venetians travel their city today by the larger motorized ‘vaporettos’, the gondolas are still a mainstay on the maze of canals albeit frequented by tourists rather than locals. As with many aspects of Venetian life, the gondolas are not as simple as they first appear and are steeped in secret symbols and signs. As you board your gondola, take a closer look at the ferro – the ornate design at the front of the boat. Can you spot the symbols of the ‘S’-shaped Grand Canal, the six sestieri, the Rialto Bridge and of course a symbolic representation of the powerful republic in the form of the distinctive Doge’s hat? During your 30 minute gondola ride, your gondolier will take you down a number of scenic canals, allowing you to see some of Venice’s hidden channels as well as venturing out onto the iconic Grand Canal for some excellent views.

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Audley Travel Specialist Molly

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Other experiences in Venice

These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities, such as cooking classes, that will introduce you to the local ways of life.