A few months ago I was hired as a professional photographer by Thomas, a fireman from California who was planning his trip to Venice with his girlfriend, Heather. He wanted to take this chance to make a surprise engagement proposal to her and asked me to suggest a suitable place to “stage” it.
If you ever spent a few days in Venice, either for your wedding, honeymoon or holiday, you might choose to treat yourself with something very typical of this magic city: a gondolatour on the channels.
In this article you find a historical introduction and some practical advice for couples wanting to enjoy this kind of experience.
The “gondola” is a traditional Venetian boat which has been used at least from the 15th century for private transportation, mostly by rich people. Common people, instead, could only afford using the “gondolino” (a kind of public transportation service) to cross the Canal Grande from one bank to the other, as most Venetians still do nowadays.
Noble families and courtesans used gondolas to move around Venice, enjoy fresh air at night during summer, parading along the channels, and even as garconnière or gambling areas. In order to limit these “dissolute” habits, at the beginning of the 17th century the Venetian authorities decided to forbid colorful coatings and sumptuous decorations and gondolas turned black, a color which was only used for the lower section’s waterproofing layer until that time.
Gondolas are built-in traditional shipyards called “squeri” which (although in limited amount) can be still seen in Venice. The building process requires special craftmanship and 280 different pieces made of 8 kinds of wood.
There are several gondola docks all over Venice where you can hire a gondola for a tour. You find one near Santa Lucia railway station, one near San Marco Square, one near Rialto bridge, one along Strada Nuova road, and many others along the small channels all over the city. You can easily recognize the “gondoliere” (the gondola sailor) by his black-and-white striped shirt and straw hat and by his shouting “gondoooooola, gondooooooola!” to catch your attention.
Any time of the day and night is fine to enjoy a gondola tour, just be aware that prices are higher at nighttime. Needless to say, the most romantic time is the sunset when gondola renters have the chance to admire Venetian channels and palaces from a different perspective and imbued in a soft light and tender atmosphere. Beside, gondolas are provided with many accessories (carpets, soft chairs, cushions, colorful and carved decorations, etc.) making the journey as pleasant as possible.
Take care of choosing the tour route which is most suitable to you, since different itineraries are available. Consider the idea of bargain a bit over the price, which is officially 80 Euros (110 Euros at nighttime) for 40 minutes for up to 6 people but might be cheaper during low season times. If you get more expensive offers, be careful: they might be either proposing extra services or else trying to cheat you:-)
Gondola tours are especially popular among foreign couples visiting Venice since they offer a very unique experience. That is why I managed to shoot several gondola tours during my couple photo portraits in Venice, as well as during my engagement, honeymoon and wedding photo services. At sunset, night or daytime, gondola tours always offer the chance to get beautiful photographs which will be much appreciated by couples as special souvenirs of intense moments.
On my website you find more examples of couple photo sessions in Venice.