This picture, showing a gondolier during a work break, was taken near St. Mark’s Square, one of the main tourist spots in Venice, Italy. Although the area is always bustling, with people rushing around the place, this picture reflects one of those quiet moments that you can only glimpse when wandering a few corners off the beaten path, in Venice and elsewhere in Italy.
The gondolier is one of the main characters in this city, an inseparable part of the culture and history of Venice. In the past, gondolas used to be the primary mode of transportation in Venice. Nowadays, they have become one of the main attractions for tourists, with over 400 gondoliers in town.
Gondoliers have had a bad reputation among some people for trying to take advantage of visitors. For us locals, though, they are people to respect. Gondola rates are fixed by the City Council and I believe that the 40-minute ride in a gondola is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that is certainly worth the price.
Not only are gondoliers doing one of the oldest and most respected jobs in the city, they are also ensuring the continuation of other old customs that are part of Venice’s rich history and heritage.
For example, many of them speak almost exclusively in Venetian, the main dialect of the city, or participate in the Regata Rowing Competitions in town. A couple of gondoliers have even won the biggest of them, the Regata Storica, for several years in a row.
They also make the lives of local residents much easier. The traghetto is a short gondola trip that residents use to cross the Grand Canal, which splits the city in two and has only four bridges over it. Especially during the rush hour or when we have tons of visitors in town, a traghetto that carries up to 14 people and costs only two euros can save you a 25-minute walk!