This item seemed like it was ultimately one of the more troublesome ones on the list. Not only is the location inconvenient, but I had to get there and then further complete something specific. If you read the last post, #15 Eat Pasta in Italy, then you know the background story to arriving in Venice from Milan. The night before, searching for dinner in this undiscovered city, I crossed off #15.
With my belly full of Italian pasta, we stuffed the reaming crevices with gelato and then rolled back to our studio apartment located in an adorable part of the city. Before going to bed, I did a final search to see if we could book a ride in advance. All the forums answering Venice gondola ride question were suggesting it was cheaper and an overall better experience, but still no luck. We were headed for the "inevitable" gondolier hunt and price negotiation in the morning since I couldn't find a booking site with available times before noon, as we had booked a 1pm train back to Milan. The only information I received was it was estimated to cost 100-150 Euro's for both Andy and me, and whatever ride you got it was going to be a full boat, seating 6-7 adults.
We were up with sun hoping to capitalize on time before our train. With no real plan, we set out to try and make something out of nothing. With the assumption that everyone booked their trips in advance, and everywhere was sold out online, things were looking complicated - but I wasn't losing hope. All exposed skin wrapped in layers, our cameras in hand, we were gonna explore and hope for the best.
As the morning hours aged, the city started to come alive. We had only experienced Venice in off-peak hours since we arrived in the evening. The sun began to shine through our gloomy morning and the monotone colors of the buildings illuminated. A calmness settled within me, and I realized I was experiencing something so significant that whatever the outcome came to be regarding crossing off items, it didn't matter. I was enraptured to be in that present moment.
We were crossing a central part of the fashion district of the city when Andy stopped at a currency exchange for Euros. While he was doing that, I wandered a few steps over to see if there was anything I was inspired to capture. I was looking at the tops of the buildings as my gaze returned neutral and there, in the center of the public square, stood two Gondoliers in matching navy striped shirts and straw boater hats asking bystanders if they were interested in a ride. I surged to the closer of the two and inquired how much, to which he replied 60 Euro each, and I countered with 30 Euro each, and he said with a big smile,
"My name is Federico, and I'll be your Gondolier this morning!"
Emotionally reliving this experience through this documentation, I'm still in disbelief. I hurried Andy over feeling as if this was too good to be true and I didn't want to squander a moment of it before he came to his senses. We found a gondolier without a reservation, far under the predicted price, and, if things couldn't get any better, we had the gondola all to ourselves. Federico, with a bow and sweep of his arm directing us down a side street, said,
Suddenly, Andy, Federico and I were off to make the unlikely come true.
On the walk over Federico blew me away with his joyfulness. We arrived at his gondola, and after a minute of preparation we loaded up for our backstreet canal tour. When I put this item on the list, I thought,
"Is this going to be amazing, or is it one of those things you just have to do to say you did in your lifetime?"
I was eager to find out. Federico assumed his standing gondolier position, with a holler down the canal, and a swoop of his oar, we were in movement. #86 was in the birthing stages of being a checked off item, and on the second day of 2018 was miraculously in a Gondola, in Venice, heading down... canal.
The moment we began any previous idea of this being an average escapade was abolished. It was one of the most magical happenings my life had experienced.
Federico gave us the full 40-minute tour, pointing out historic buildings and landmarks, like Marco Polo's residence, and answering all of our questions. His excitement seemingly matching ours, I think he knew he was making an incredible experience even more memorable. All other thoughts forfeiting to this moment as my wonderment for this experience met reality and was blown away. Pure magic.
Before we knew it 40 minutes had elapsed, and our tour was concluding. We hopped off, Federico re-docked his gondola, we made light conversation, repeated our thanks for the experience and said our goodbyes. Andy and I, feeling on top of the world, headed one way and Federico and all his gondolier pride was off in another to make someone else's day.
With the ride over we had a few more hours to explore the city, and we took full advantage of it.
#86 Ride a Gondola in Venice: CHECK. Please add this to your list, no words can adequately describe what a genuine feeling of bliss it is. I had come to Italy with the goal to complete my list, and then once finished with the intention of crossing off three items - this being the third. What a trip, what a start. Onward...
All my love,