This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Your Romantic Gondola Ride

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If you visit Venice, you just must take a ride in a gondola.

Below, I will give you the why, when, where, how and who of putting together your romantic gondola ride. I will intersperse photos of our own romantic gondola rides throughout.



To visit Venice without taking a ride in a gondola is like not visiting Venice at all. A gondola ride in Venice is the quintessential experience, as the gondola is THE Venetian icon.



The gondola is a traditional flat-bottomed boat that is rowed by a gondolier. The rowing oar is not actually attached to the gondola, but is rested on the forcula like the one at right. The gondolier uses some elaborate sequence of strokes to propel the gondola. You can watch a gondolier for hours and not get a good feel for how they move and turn their gondola. It is one of those mysteries of Venetian life.


Every gondola is different, and each is a work of art. The embellishments are unique to the gondolier.


My opinion: it makes a difference as to what time of day you take your gondola ride. Take your ride during the day, and it is a gondola ride. Take your ride in the evening, and it is a romantic gondola ride.

We have chosen our gondola ride times based on sunset times. Since a typical ride is about 50 minutes, plan the start of your time so that sunset occurs near the midpoint of your ride.

Another factor concerning the time of day is the amount of boat traffic and the crowds. It seems that the population of Venice during the day is close to twice that of the night. Many of the visitors to Venice are there just for the day...they stay on the mainland and arrive by tour bus. Boat traffic on the Grand Canal is more prolific due to these visitors, as well as needs to supply the town with goods. This means that after five o'clock, things get much, much quieter in Venice. Now Venice is yours to enjoy. Now, it is time for that gondola ride.


There are numerous starting points for gondola rides within Venice, but here is our favorite. There is a gondola station at the Campo Moise, near the entrance to the Hotel Bauer, just west of Piazza San Marco.


The benefit of this starting location is that you get to wander some very picturesque narrow canals before entering the Grand Canal. And your entrance point to the Grand Canal soon brings you to the famous Rialto Bridge, under which you will pass.


Then your gondolier will take you through a maze of narrow canals to the essential Bridge of Sighs. 

Since passing under the Bridge of Sighs is essential, be sure to confirm with your gondolier before your departure that you route will take you there.

Passing under this bridge is essential because it is a known fact that if you kiss your loved one as you pass under the Bridge of Sighs, you will be sure to return to Venice.


Then, it is just a short ride back out to the Grand Canal where you will cruise past the Molo and then to the end your ride, right back where you started.


A side note: if you stay at the Hotel Flora (see my article on the Hotel Flora here), you will be just a few steps away from this gondola station.


Gondola rides in the evening are very popular. I would suggest that you drop by the gondola station during the day to make a reservation and to establish a starting time. The price? Does it really matter?


I would suggest taking your romantic gondola ride with the one you love. That’s what I do!

When you take your own romantic gondola ride, I would love to be your gondolier.


Ciao for now,



Traveling with Friends

We love to travel with our friends.  It's such fun to share experiences we can then talk about forever and ever.

Over the years, we have had the privilege to travel with 10 other loved ones to Italy. We look back on the memories created during these visits and find that each moment connected to these loved ones lives within our hearts.

First, here is a short video that I've put together giving you a whirlwind, 2012 trip through Italy in 3 minutes and 28 seconds. This was a trip with our great friends, Debbie & Scott Kennedy. There is music involved -- I hope you listen with quality computer speakers or ear-buds/headphones.

Below the video you will be able to read a few anecdotes of travels with friends over the years.

If you click the bottom right of the video where it says 'Watch on', you can see the video in full screen.


Like the time we were having a slice of pizza for lunch in Venice with Leslie and Craig on a small calle. A gentleman walked by on the way to the restaurant where he worked carrying a 'bouquet' of basil, wrapped in butcher paper. The aroma was marvelous! Now, every time we smell basil, we think of those moments there with Leslie and Craig where Calle delle Ostreghe crosses the Rio de l'Alboro.

I still remember an evening in Florence, walking toward the Piazza della Signoria. Greg says to me, "Do you know what you call cheese that's not yours?".  I said, "No".  Greg said, "Nacho cheese!". Hah - a joke indelibly etched in my mind, tied to a place I love, with a guy I love.

                      Taken during our romantic gondola ride

                      Taken during our romantic gondola ride

Or the time we were taking a romantic gondola ride with the Johnsons and the Ponsfords and as we tried to serenade ourselves with singing, we realized that none of us knew any song for which all of us could sing more than the first line. We settled on 'White Christmas'. Was it in December? No. But isn't October close to Christmas?

And then there was Casa alle Vacche, home of the excellent Cinabro Chianti (such a distinctive taste!). Dale was sitting crossed legged and was telling a story and mimicking a friend when he started giggling so much that he couldn't finish his story. We will always remember that spot, and the view of San Gimignano sitting proud in the distance as we had lunch as Dale giggled uncontrollably.   [Editors note: it was the wine!]

                  A dramatization -- not the actual pate'

                  A dramatization -- not the actual pate'

It was a nice restaurant in Florence, down in one of those whitewashed medieval basements. Ginger looked lovely in her white blouse. While the waiter was placing appetizers on the table, he tipped over a plate of pate' right onto Ginger's brand new, bought just that day, white blouse. As befits Ginger, she didn't miss a beat as she took to the lady's room, club soda in hand, to resolve the situation with absolutely no fuss. When we think of Florence, or when we think of pate', we think of Ginger and her marvelous spirit.

And, how about the time we were in Venice during a rather loud demonstration as it wound it's way through the calle of Venice. Drums. Flags. Banners. A cacophony of chanting.  Mike started to walk along with the group, having no idea what the demonstration was about. As he marched, he tapped a flag-carrying demonstrator on the shoulder and pointed at their flag and then himself -- and off he went over bridge and canal carrying a red flag of protest for who knows what. Yes, he did make it through passport control upon departure from Italy. And yes, we are sure it must have been for a worthy cause.

We had told Nicole not to worry too much about how she dressed, her makeup and her appearance, as "what are the chances you will see anyone you know in Italy?" Sure enough, while staring at The David statue in the Academia Gallery, she hears, "Nicole, what are you doing here?!".  And a few days later she and about 6 other high school friends bumped into each in the Piazza San Marco in Venice. And yes, she looked lovely, by the way!


And then there's the beautiful verdigris bronze lion at the base of the Manin statue in Campo Manin in Venice. Walking back from dinner in the evening, we heard Judy suggest that this fabulous, century-old Lion of St Mark, needed to have it's nose picked...which she proceeded to do! This was from a normally reserved, but obviously fun-loving Judy!

One of our favorite memories is Scott's and Debbie's afternoon adventure in Venice. I  had led them around in circles twice in one day and they were not too impressed with my Venetian map-reading skills (no, it wasn't on purpose -- I'm sure the map must have had a weird crease in it, or something) and we all had a good laugh on my account -- well deserved, of course.  On our last day in Venice we decided to spend the morning on our own and meet after lunch to see the Frari.  They just knew that they could get to the Frari sempre diretto, so with map in hand, they started off to meet us after lunch. After a good while, they learned that it is, indeed, a lot of fun to get lost in Venice. After several texts informing us that they were sure they were almost there, and often stopping for directions with map in hand (all documented by Debbie in the photos, below), they did indeed join us at The Frari. When we next visited the Frari, Ellen and I had that fond memory etched in our memories.

Ahhh, here they are, finally!

Ahhh, here they are, finally!

And there is traveling with that special friend, my wife, Ellen. Italy has brought us so many memories that are catalogued and stored away, and  then recalled on so many occasions.  Sometimes we are stunned that a memory will just pop into our heads unsearched. But we then reminisce about it and put it away to be discovered another day.

We love each of these people dearly. And we dearly love Italy.  What fun it is to combine things that we love in our life as we create memories we will cherish always.


Ciao for now,




Serendipity, Stakeouts & Targeting - Part 1

You’ve taken photos – we all have. Think about your most satisfying images and how they were captured. By ‘how’, I mean how you set about capturing that image, and whether you set out to capture that image at all.

There are typically three ways that we go about the capture of our photographic images.

Serendipity: This is the fortuitous circumstance where things seem to just magically work out for you when you have your camera. Call it chance, fate, providence, coincidence, luck or just good fortune; it was your destiny to get that shot.  A rainbow appears but for a few moments, and you are there to capture it.  The newborn yawns for the first time and you say ‘hold it!’ as you click your camera shutter. Your 5-year-old catches an 18” rainbow trout and you pull out your camera for that once-in-a-lifetime event. Many of our photos are caught serendipitously, but in fine-art photography, serendipity is rare.

A Stakeout:  This involves surveillance, observation and just hanging out at a particular spot waiting for just the right moment to come along.  Whether it’s a bird alighting on a pre-focused branch, stars aligning with the moon, your child screaming on the slide just before they reach the bottom, a salmon jumping upstream right into the mouth of an awaiting bear (he, too was on a stakeout), getting a wave frozen in time as it crashed against the rocks, two gondole arriving at precisely the right time, or whatever – it’s the situation where you need things to be just perfectly aligned for the shot to work. One must set up a vigil and wait, wait, wait for it…

Targeting: I will define targeting as planning and then going after the image, doing whatever it takes to get the image that was envisioned. You have a goal in mind, an objective, and an intention to capture a certain final image. All wedding photographers work from a shot list that targets their trademark shots. The portrait photographer targets a certain look as they have you drop your right shoulder, raise your chin and look to the left to capture that ‘un-posed’ portrait. And targeting can involve having several photos on your shot list that will later be combined into that one final image that you were targeting. When we travel to Italy, I often have a shot list, and several final images in mind, as I go about photographing - and I have to check my shot list often. 

Combinations:  Often, getting the targeted image that you envision requires a stakeout, so a combination is often needed. I’ve taken photos where I envisioned the final image, and then I had to set up a vigil to accomplish the final photograph.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean by these terms.

The photo below was a result of a Stakeout and Targeting

I knew exactly what I wanted the finished photo to look like even before leaving home. I targeted the location that I knew was integral to the shot (in this case the Rialto Bridge in Venice).  And, I knew that I was going to have to be staked-out for about an hour to accomplish what I had envisioned (I took over 80 photos in an hour’s time of boats on the Grand Canal, all from the same location and perspective). Certain boats from each photo were combined into a image that was selected by National Geographic senior editor Kurt Mutchler for a gallery showing called 'The Art of Travel Photography'.

So, that image was a combination of targeting and then a stakeout.


You be the Judge

For this next image, you decide how the photo below was accomplished. This image, titled ‘Procession’ was part of a four-page portfolio of my Venice images published in ‘Black & White Magazine’ in 2013.

Was this image a result of:

1.       A stakeout, where I waited and waited at this location until the two gondole were just perfectly aligned in a ‘Procession’?

2.       Serendipity, where I happened upon a location and without having to wait hardly at all, one gondola passed by just as another was coming down the canal to create ‘Procession’? Perfect timing! What a surprise! I love it when that happens! Yes!

3.       Targeting, where my goal was to get an image that I envisioned, and which I would call ‘Procession’, and then I went out to make it happen – whatever it took?

I’m now playing the music for the Final-Jeopardy question as you work on your answer - you have it in your head now, right? And I will keep playing it until next week's blog.

Feel free to put your answer in the Comments box below.



Ciao, for now!