Extracted from Venice: Step Lightly. Buy yours here.
Some people pooh-pooh the idea of a gondola ride because it’s too touristy. But viewing the city from the water is like entering a secret, more intimate city, and to see the the gondolier navigating tight spaces and turning blind corners can be hugely entertaining. A sunny afternoon in winter is the best time to see the city at its most beautiful; avoid mornings, as that’s the peak period for big, noisy working boats, including the refuse-collection barges. Prices are established by the gondoliers’ association and displayed at the gondola station. Note: There are gondolas also parked by many bridges, with the gondolier offering a ride; he’s bona fide, and has simply been assigned a place further from the station that day. Tip if you feel so inclined, but it’s not expected or required.