Gondola rides are *the* thing to do in Venice... but does that mean you should do them?

A gondola ride is one of those things that sound so quintessentially Venetian that it begins to seem like a trip to the Italian city just wouldn’t be complete without floating along in one of those little wooden boats for an idyllic 40 minutes. The gondoliers do, after all, wear those famous striped shirts as they row you through the canals, and yes, they occasionally sing.

But quaint as it is, the question remains whether or not you should take a gondola ride… especially considering a journey doesn’t come cheap. A one-hour trip during the day costs €120, while a romantic nighttime ride will set you back €150… that’s €2.50 per minute of clichéd bliss (see the official rates for gondola rides here).

By contrast, you could take a trip on the vaporetto (the water buses used by local commuters) for €6.50 per ride (or even less if you buy a pass, see vaporetto fares here). And if you really wanted the small wooden boat experience, there’s always the traghetto – boats that ferry passengers across the Grand Canal. The good news: a ride on one of these will only run you 50 cents. The even better news: these boats are actually old gondolas (though their embellishments have been stripped back to make room for extra passengers… and… you’ll have to stand).

So okay, I guess true to its name, the traghetto does sound more ghetto than the gondola… but ultimately, this post isn’t just about boat rides in Venice. There’s a bigger question here, to do with evaluating so-called “must-dos” in any vacation destination. It’s about curbing the act of blindly checking activities off a list by exercising a healthy dose of judgment.

So readers, I want to hear your thoughts: how do you draw the line between an activity that’s overpriced and just for tourists, and an experience that’s so a part of the Venetian (or wherever else) fantasy that you just have to do it regardless of how cheesy or pricey it might be?