Julia and I are having a debate about whether or not to go on a Gondola ride whilst we are here in Venice. We know that it is expensive: 80€ for 30 minutes and 120€ for 45 minutes. The 80€ trip is rather minimalistic – just around the back canals if you choose to board a Gondola in the back streets, or more or less under the Bridge of Sighs up a bit and back again, if you hire a Gondola near St Mark’s Square. The 120€ trip takes you on a round tour taking in a number of the main sites depending where you board from. Julia says she doesn’t want to go on a Gondola (even though I know she does really) because of the expense. I want to go because … well you have to if you are in Venice, don’t you. Who knows when, or even if, we will ever be back here, and we are celebrating two very special birthdays aren’t we. When we visited Pisa we saw the famous leaning tower but didn’t good up it – a decision I have regretted ever since. The last time we were in Paris we went up the Eiffel Tower but not to the very top – another decision I have regretted since. I now have to revisit both places to fulfil my ambitions – incuring greater expense than what it would have cost us at the time. So, for me it is a no brainer! We are going on a Gondola – it is just a question of how much.
I have been on a Gondola before. It was back in 1960 when I was part of that school trip to Rome and Venice as a teenager that I told you about in my previous blog in this short series of blogs. Mind you it didn’t cost anything like 80-120€ in those days. There were four of us, two boys and two girls, and it was memorable for me because when the girl I was with and I decided to have a quick snog whilst travelling under the Bridge of Sighs the Gondolier rapped us over the head with his oar shouting, ‘No! No! Polizia!’ Apparently that sort of behaviour was against the law in those days! Julia knows this story and thinks that it is very funny.
We enjoy a pleasant walk through Venice on a bright sunny morning stopping for our usual coffee on the way. I take lots of photographs. The clear air is ideal for photography and I already have some great photos. We decide to catch a Gondola near St Mark’s’ Square so we can actually go under the famous Bridge of Sighs – so-called because it was the bridge from the old courthouse in the Doge’s Palace to the prison. Our route takes us via Santa Maria Formosa Campo but when we get there it is in chaos. There is rubble everywhere where buildings have fallen down, the market stalls are all smashed and broken, it is a scene of absolute carnage. Are we in the middle of a terrorist incident we wonder? But, no, everything is OK … all the rubble is made of polystyrene and they are actually filming the latest Spider-Man movie and the day’s shooting is about to begin! For us this particular Campo now has assumed a new name – Spider-Man Square.
We resist the temptation to join the hundreds of teenage fans waiting to see Tom Holland, the star of the film, and press on with our quest. We discover that we can’t hire a Gondola sharing with another couple (something about family members only, which sounds like an excuse to me) but settle for the longer circuitous trip of around 45 minutes plus. We do manage to get the cost reduced to 100€ on the condition that we don’t tell anyone about it – well, apart from you, that is.
We enjoy a great trip and love every moment of it. Our Gondolier is very friendly and provides us with a guided tour of all the places of interest also the way. As we got under the Bridge of Sighs Julia and I risk a quick kiss but don’t get hit by an oar this time! Obviously morals in Venice are slacking somewhat these days. Our Gondolier tells us that they don’t sing much either. Apparently ‘Just one cornetto’ is not a genuine Venetian song and is therefore no longer allowed. If singing is out, mobile phones are in, and we notice that quite a few Gondoliers are chatting away on theirs as they row. Rowing is an amazing skill for these guys and they train for it from childhood and being a Gondolier is a family tradition and therefore a restricted profession. We have a great trip of more than the allotted 45 minutes and it was worth every penny.
After our trip we sit by St Mark’s Square people watching. A Chinese couple (there are lots of Chinese tourists here) are being interviewed by Italian soldiers? I am sure that they were in another Gondola we passed on our trip. There is a lot of gesticulating and wagging of the finger going on. I can’t help but wonder … what on earth had they got up to on their Gondola when under the Bridge of Sighs?