I had been skeptical of the Venetian gondola ride, thinking it too touristy and overpriced. Last summer, however, I discovered what is so special about this Venetian tradition.
A gondola ride provides a unique view of Venice from the quiet interior canals, from an on-the-water point of view that you will never get as a pedestrian. Gliding on the water is also a lovely rest from the crowds on the street.
Most fascinating, however, was our gondolier, who provided us with a history of his profession, a job which often is passed down from generation to generation, in much the same way at the Thames Watermen in London. A few fun facts we learned: a new gondola, costing tens of thousands of Euros, is typically provided to a young gondolier as a gift from his father, upon his father's retirement; each gondolier must pass a rigorous navigation, handling, and swim rescue test; the busiest time of year is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Carnevale.