Amongst sinuous canals, hair-skimmingly low bridges and floating garage doors, touristy Venice is restored to its roots. Our gondolier spoke only a few choice English words, including “water” and “Elvis.” (As a former crew coxswain, I identified with him despite the language barrier.) Partially submerged art peeped out from around canal corners; Madonna dolls waved from windows; and a bit of moldy graffiti sprang from the river, giving the quaint setting a (slightly) modern edge.
Budget or no budget, there is no point in trekking anywhere if you do not fully experience it. So, as cliched and throat-clenchingly pricey as paddled boats are in Venice, test the water.
Most streets are weak on Italian flavor that drenches the waterways: the grounds are flooded with English, spoken by both tourists and accommodating vendors. Additionally, the surfeit of souvenir stands and sugary snacks does nothing to assuage the impression that you are in Epcot Center, Disney World, rather than Venice, Italy.
Enter the gondola. The slender snake of a vehicle is built to take you where no other visitor transport can – not surprising, as gondolas were the main transport in town for about 800 years. Hop aboard for the ultimate Italian cultural baptism.
Details: a 30-minute ride will set you back about 75 euro. Prices can be split amongst groups of up to six passengers. Just remember to negotiate the price and time prior to stepping aboard.
Next goal: attend a gondola regatta. Yes, they exist.