Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Traffic jam with a view

Getting stuck on the Grand Canal in Venice

  • Print
Gondolier Enrico Busetto negotiates one way traffice in Venice's Santa Maria Formsoa Canal

Enlarge Image

Gondolier Enrico Busetto negotiates one way traffice in Venice's Santa Maria Formsoa Canal

It's 5:45 p.m. and we're in noisy rush-hour traffic, Venice-style.

My wife and I and our 10-year-old daughter are in a gondola at the mouth of the Grand Canal -- the nexus of water transport in this Italian city of 118 islands and 448 bridges.

We're only a few boat lengths away from the rows of docks where every day thousands of tourists pay to hop in a gondola and the jostling for positioning starts.

Since these waterways are heaving with gondolas and the craft aren't equipped with horns, gondoliers standing at the back deftly working the single oar are yelling at each other in Italian.

We'd like to think our gondolier, Enrico Busetto, is screeching that his customers are the most important so please give right of way.

But the reality is he doesn't want a collision and the sooner he can get us around the corner and into the narrower and quieter Santa Maria Formsoa Canal and back he can take on more paying customers.

Don't get me wrong, we adore our half-hour gondola ride and it was surreal to be gliding over some of the world's most fabled waterways in this unique boat.

But it isn't at all what we expected.

With our daughter in tow we weren't exactly anticipating a moon-lit romantic escape with champagne and serenading Italian.

But neither did we expect the cacophony of this ancient mode of transportation put to a comedic backdrop of tourism, commerce and chaos.

The gondola itself was a surprise.

I know what they look like from a million tourist brochures, TV shows and movies, but stepping into the real thing revealed a black boat that had lost a bit of its original sheen.

The red upholstery on the bench and chair seating was slightly faded and tattered and reminiscent of a 1700s Venetian boudoir.

When we enter the smaller, narrower canal there's still lots of traffic, but there's only room for gondolas single file.

This is where our gondolier Enrico puts on a show.

With a sweep of his arms, flick of his wrists and roll of his hands he glides the vessel through the passageway.

To this poetry in motion he regularly paces up and down his little Persian-carpeted runway in the back to achieve the right torque on the oar; occasionally has to use his foot to push off a wall so gondola and building don't crash; and is forever ducking and weaving so he doesn't bonk his head as we squeeze under bridge after bridge.

Our time on the canals is part of the Doge's Palace, St.Mark's Basilica and Gondola Ride excursion we pick while in Venice on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the Disney Magic.

Seems every tourist in Venice this day is after the same trifecta of the city's greatest hits.

But being on a Disney excursion means special treatment.

We bypass the long line to tour the Doge's Palace with guide Rosanna Colombo, who tells us Doges were the king's representative in Venice while he was off partying in Constantinople.

At St. Mark's Basilica we also line cut to take in 8,000 square metres of gold and mosaics..

Similarly the excursion means we walk right up docks to waiting gondolas for our rides.

There are even front row seats on the patio at Al Todaro restaurant in ultra-busy St. Mark's Square awaiting us when we return so we can people watch and eat gelato.

Disney Magic's Mediterranean cruises stops not just in Venice, but Barcelona, the South of France, Naples, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Croatia and Malta.

It's the perfect way to take in the Med's history and beauty and get that Disney quality in excursions and everything onboard from food and entertainment to pools and spa.

(DisneyCruise.com and Venice-Tourism.com)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 E1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Perry Bellegarde elected as national chief of Assembly of First Nations

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you watch The Interview?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google