Like many tourists to Venice, I returned from vacation with a memory card full of photos of sun dappled canals, pigeons in St. Mark's Square, and, of course, black and white striped gondoliers. Though I didn't take a ride myself (outrageously expensive for a solo traveller like myself) I feel I more than made up for that experience by living vicariously through my photos and taking the vaporetto (hey, it's a boat!) as much as possible. I snapped shots of gondoliers barking for customers, punting their way under the Bridge of Sighs, even taking micro naps in their own gondolas.
But what's so compelling about a gondolier? Other than the fact that they are generally handsome, fit, and wear graphically interesting apparel? I think it might have something to do with the wholly touristic nature of Venice. My first few days on the island I felt like I never encountered a "real Italian," apart from the gondoliers and my B&B owner. It was only during the latter days of my visit, when I ventured to the outer parts of the island, that I started to encounter actual residents of Venice. Like elderly ladies hanging their laundry in the outskirts of Cannaregio. And children zooming about on scooters after church Sunday morning in Santa Margarita Square. These are the experiences that I will remember most, but they certainly don't define Venice. I'm just glad I spent the effort and time to see all parts of the island. But I still love those gondolier shots.