Gondoliers, Accordionists and a Winged Lion

Venice is exactly as lovely as they say it is. Canals are lined by perfectly Venetian buildings. All of them are old. None of them are exactly level (or plumb). If you look past the tourists, there are lots of dignified Venetian people here. Old men and women walk arm in arm, both wearing suits, he with a kerchief lapel, her with lipstick and jewelry. Everyone wears nice shoes- only the Americans are out in flip-flops. Accordionists serenade people sitting on the patios of restaurants and cafes. Cigarette and cigar smoke regularly wafts over the tables, especially in the evening. Gondoliers stand, waiting for tourists to ask for a ride.

Only those born in Venice can be Gondoliers, they own their boats, and the city allows a certain number of them. There are two lady-gondoliers and the rest are men. Pedestrians dominate the street, there are no cars. Young women and men work as porters moving luggage and goods by hand on carts. Most of the carts are pilled high with suitcases, but some have food and other stuffs strapped on.

A step off the tourist line, just a bit to the left or the right another, hides another, quieter version of Venice. “Walking lost” as they call it can lead to an abandoned church yard or a locals only cafe. This is our favorite way to find our favorite things.

The grand canal and the littlest side canals are filled with boats. It’s not a stretch to say Venice is all about the boats (Venice is also all about the marble, but that’s another story). This is Venice. Ships, boats, hand-carts, and feet, that’s all there is. No cars. It’s waterborne. It’s all about the boats.

The Boats

Firstly, there are the gondolas, romantic, idyllic, small and man powered. Only venetian born citizens can operate a gondola, and each gondolier owns his or her boat. They duck and lean to pass under the bridges without scraping their craft or their head.

Next there are the taxis, polished wood with gorgeous grain covers these boats. They’re pretty and pretty pricey; it’s something like $100 to take one for just a short ride.

Then there are the less glamorous small ferry boats called Vaporettos. This is how people who are not literally made of money get around. It’s more like taking the bus. Vaporettos are run by different companies on schedules and specific routes.

Fishermen have boats too, of course. Conditions of these vary depending on the fisher. Most of the people we saw unloading fish had function-focused craft. The paint was peeling on some and others were in good repair but were clearly for utility only.

Lastly, as you might imagine, luxury cruisers and yachts are not in short supply. From the massive mega yachts with their own heli-ports, to the smaller yet equally as glamorous run-about boats that are made of beautifully finished wood, Venice does love its luxury on the water.