Keeping children entertained on a family holiday is a never-ending challenge for parents, no matter how appealing the destination might be. With long days and short attention spans in the mix, the activities chosen need to achieve that delicate balance of being fun for the children while also being enjoyable for the parents. For those travelling to the magical Italian city of Venice, the answer is not blowing in the wind, it's floating on the canals… |
A ride in a gondola is one of the most iconic travel experiences you can have in Venice. Tours along the waterways provide a unique way to see the sights and an engaging way for children to absorb some history without even knowing it. But it is also possible to take it one step further.
The Iconic Venetian Gondola
The ancient art of the gondolier is strictly regulated and it takes at least 400 hours of practice before they're even allowed to sit the exam. Beyond the physical skills, the boatmen are tested on history, language, culture and navigation.
Imagine how exciting it would be for youngsters to take their experience one step further and learn how to row like one of the city's iconic gondoliers themselves. Believe it or not they can – on a very special "Learn to Be a Gondolier" tour with Italy experts, ArtViva.
A Fun Family Experience in Venice: Tours to Learn the Art of the Gondolier
This fun and relaxing experience is the perfect family activity in Venice. Tours are limited to a maximum of six people, so everyone gets a turn to try their hand at this ancient art. But you're also welcome to simply sit back and let someone else do the work if you prefer. Time for the kids to earn their keep? Why not!
Traditions and Techniques
The flat-bottomed gondolas are entirely constructed from timber, making them very heavy and quite difficult to steer. It requires great skill to navigate the narrow canals and avoid collisions with the large number of other vessels on the water.
Gondoliers are trained in special rowing techniques that differ from the traditional methods. Using just one oar they row a poppa, steering from the stern (the back) of the boat. Novices will begin by learning a prua, by standing at the prow (front) of the boat, before graduating to a poppa.
While many people believe the art of gondaliering is like punting, the canals are far too deep for a pole to gain traction. The action required with the oar is a forward stroke followed by a backward stroke, which regulates the speed and also acts as a rudder to keep the vessel straight. The flat bottom of the boat allows a drifting motion when a sideways direction is required.
A Taste of Authentic Culture
Gondolas have been a part of the landscape of this magnificent city for centuries and at one time there were up to 10,000 of the vessels plying the Grand Canal. Today they're reserved in the most part for touristic purposes, but the traditions of the instantly recognisable gondolier in his striped shirt and straw boater live on.
The Venice tours that offer a hands-on insight into this ancient tradition are an amazing way for children to gain an introduction to history and, even more importantly, have a whole lot of fun.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Venice tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the city’s palaces and basilicas to unforgettable gondoliering lessons.
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