Becoming a gondalier
Updated: Nov 3, 2018
Let me describe my favorite tourist activity.
You learn how to row a Venetian boat, in the Venice lagoon, with two Italian women: One English-speaking 20-something who moved to Venice 5 years ago and learned to row to make friends, and another middle-aged (honestly I have no idea how old this strong, awesome woman was) pro rower.
They teach you to plant your feet in the boat, shorten the oar when you get close to other boats and bend your front knee as you angle the paddle on its holder. They teach you to yell “oi!” When you approach an intersection because they don’t have boat horns. They let you try standing in the back like a gondolier, but keep the boat roped in place so you don’t fall off.
This was Row Venice, the activity Dan and I did Wednesday morning. The cost of a 90-minute lesson and hang was about the same as a half-as-long gondola ride. This was clearly my preference. I wanted to Row Dan! He also did some rowing.
Cristina, the pro rower, would make slight adjustments to our rowing and basically steer and power the boat from the back.
Beatrice (the English speaker) said only tourists SUP in Venice, and they’re not technically allowed to. And only police use jet skis, and they look stupid going through quiet canals on them.
It’s been funny to see municipal vehicles on the water. In Venice, there’s a red fireboat, garbage boat, DHL boat, a concrete cement mixer on a boat an ambulance boat with sirens and, of course, water taxis. We haven’t seen a car in three days.
Aside from rowing and LOVING IT on Wednesday, Dan and I tried not to make any other plans for our last full day and night of Venice. We went to the non-touristy bars in Cannaregio for snacks, drinks, espresso and food. We checked the stores of local artisans and flirted with the idea of buying leather backpacks for hundreds of euros. We bought prints from Venetian artists. We got lost in the tangled canals and streets. We went to the Jewish ghetto and bought cookies that looked like hamentashen. We looked at the stars. We ate gelato. We greeted many dogs who don’t say woof, but rather “book, book!” in Italian, as I heard on man telling a little girl.
We saw stray cats. One even wandered into our dinner restaurant and didn’t want to leave. She clung to the chair. A waiter sweetly carried her out.
There are many logos and artworks with cats on them here. But dogs are welcome at many places. There were plenty of dogs outside with their owners who were drinking with friends late in the night.
As Vittorio from the Revolve leather store recommended, we got cicchetti at a place called Al Timon and then dinner at Osteria Anice Stellato. The former place lets you take wine out in plastic cups and sip from anchored boats. The latter gives you a “chef’s surprise” appetizer bite. Surprise: It was amazing fish!
We ended the night dancing to “My Way” as performed by the Cafe Florian band in St Marks.
Thus concludes our Venice stay. Don’t listen to anyone (including Dan’s friends) who tell you that 1 day is a sufficient amount of time to explore Venice.
Next, back to Rome.