View Full Version : Falling from a gondola (Venetian boat)

02-16-2013, 01:46 PM
Okay, this question might sound stupid. I need someone who's knowledgeable about gondolas.

I have a scene with two soon-to-be lovers renting a romantic dinner on a gondola in Venice. I'm planning to make the MC fall in the water just before he's about to confess his feelings. Is it plausible?
These gondolas looks quite sturdy (they can hold up to six people) and the gondoliers are professionals. I'm not sure if the possibility is very high.

Thank you in advance

02-16-2013, 02:14 PM
I've never been on a gondola in my life, but it's not hard to image a scenario where someone falls out of one (say, he stands up unexpectedly in his nervousness and trips before the gondolier can stop him--it's not like gondolas have high railings all around the boat).

Just a friendly comment not related to your question--I might think about using something else besides a gondola (it could still be set in Venice). The reason I say that is because romantic incidents on gondolas have sort of been done to death in movies. Just as an example, you could do the same thing at a sidewalk cafe near the canal or at one of the open bridges (even though that might not be that original either).

02-16-2013, 07:55 PM
Someone else operating a speedboat in an unsafe way may be your best explaination.

02-16-2013, 08:01 PM
I got a kick out of the rivalry that goes on between the gondoliers. I don't know if it was real--I suspected at the time that it was part of the show--but there are points in the canals where the boats start to bunch up or where they are all turning in the same area and there is a lot of yelling and classic Italian gesturing.

Anyway, it's not hard to imagine a situation where a fight breaks out between gondoliers (perhaps your MC gets bumped overboard) or boats are jostling more than usual in a sort of demolition derby-ish race for who's going to make it to the exit of the canal first. (Harder to imagine him falling over in this situation but, again, another gondolier could reach out or stick his pole out [minds out of the erotica section, people :D] or do something else unexpected.)

As to the cliche aspect, I would think you could work around this if you give a good reason for the fall. If, for example, one gondolier had just dumped another one's sister and they were involved in an ongoing battle about it...something that makes your MC a completely unexpected victim of the toss overboard rather than a hapless dude screwing up his own declaration of love. Might misdirect the "seen this before" feeling. Just a thought...

02-16-2013, 08:37 PM
Thanks for the advice, people.
@ alleycat - Thank you for the friendly advice. I might change it though it doesn't really suit my plot. My MC is thinking really hard about his confession. he wants to do it in a certain way. at a cafe, it doesn't seem as romantic, so it wouldn't fit his personality and not the plot either. However, i really appreciate your advice and I'll give it a thorough thought.

@Sarpedon. Venetian canals are narrow. i don't think speedboats are allowed there.
It's ironical that i went to Venice, but back then i didn't pay much attention to these details and I was a kid, so I didn't think about romance plots back then. Now I want to kick myself in the *** for not being more observant.
@Elaine, I can very well imagine this happening. It's a great advice.
though, to be honest, I wasn't worried with this being cliche at all. I haven't seen or read any scenes with characters falling in the water in the middle of their confession.
I was thinking the character might stand up and drop his cell in the water, but would it be enough to prompt him to jump on his own?

Any Italians here to share their experience regarding gondolas?

02-16-2013, 09:48 PM
I'm not sure if dropping his cell phone in the water would be enough to prompt him to jump in...
I would believe it more if he dropped something extremely expensive and/or sentimental. (And by expensive, I'm imagining AT LEAST $1000 US. Most cell phones cost less than that.)
A ring - engagement ring? promise ring? Great-grandma's beloved ring from the old country?
A money clip/wallet - owned or made by his great grandfather
A keychain - I have a keychain that was made by my great grandfather before I was born. Granted, I don't carry it around with me, but since I never met my great grandfather, it's pretty special.
A photograph

Another thought... perhaps it's something that belongs to HER, and HE goes in after it. In that case I would believe a cell phone, or again it could be any of the above.

Or it could be something he's not supposed to have... kind of like when you're a kid and you borrow your sister's New Kids on the Block mix tape. You have to get it back in the case before she gets home so she'll never know you took it. (This may have happened to me. I plead the fifth.) Perhaps it's something he took from his boss's desk or sibling's house, to impress the girl.

ETA: I assume they're tourists. Is it possible that he just bought something reasonably expensive for her, and that's what he drops?

02-16-2013, 10:01 PM
Okay, this question might sound stupid. I need someone who's knowledgeable about gondolas.

I have a scene with two soon-to-be lovers renting a romantic dinner on a gondola in Venice. I'm planning to make the MC fall in the water just before he's about to confess his feelings. Is it plausible?
These gondolas looks quite sturdy (they can hold up to six people) and the gondoliers are professionals. I'm not sure if the possibility is very high.

Thank you in advance

How does one rent a dinner? How does one return a rented dinner since one does not own it, but is only renting the dinner?

Gondola's might be long, but they are narrow. Not much room for serving a dinner...

They do have dinner cruises on ships that navigate the wider canals...

02-16-2013, 10:54 PM
How does one rent a dinner? How does one return a rented dinner since one does not own it, but is only renting the dinner?

I'm sure she meant renting the gondola for a romantic dinner...

Gondola's might be long, but they are narrow. Not much room for serving a dinner...Still, I saw this twice during our short gondola ride. One had a canopy over the couple, a tablecloth, the works. I think it was probably a picnic basket meal (not the full 5 course dinner) but I don't think it's an uncommon occurrence.

02-16-2013, 11:26 PM
Yes, some gondoliers include a basket of wine, cheese, bread, special deserts, etc as part of their package. Many have canopy's with curtains that can be drawn for privacy. That is not a dinner though...

Also, you don't rent a gondola, you hire the gondolier with his gondola.

02-17-2013, 10:16 AM
I can't remember the plot circumstances, but Katharine Hepburn did exactly this in the film Summertime (1955). Hepburn fell in the water for real and gave herself a lifelong eye infection as a result.

02-17-2013, 01:26 PM
@melindamusil - this is a wonderful idea. thank you!

@thothguard51 -Hiring/ renting/booking is pretty much the same thing. I think it's pretty obvious what I meant - riding a gondola with a romantic dinner included . Not necessarily dinner, but a wine and candles and stuff. I haven't researched that yet. I'm still not sure if I should use this gondola scene altogether. That's why I asked in the research thread. obviously I'll researched better before I start writing the scene. i don't need to be told that by others. But thanks for pointing it out. I guess I won't have to bother surfing the net for info now.

@eyeblink - thanks for the info!

02-18-2013, 06:48 PM
A speedboat being where it is not supposed to be would certainly qualify as unsafe operation. People aren't supposed to drive the wrong way down a one way street, but they do. :)

02-19-2013, 02:21 PM
Oh, I understand what you mean now LOL Sorry! Thanks for the suggestion *hug*

02-20-2013, 12:25 AM
Shayla, another idea- a necklace (hers?) could fall overboard. If the chain breaks, it would just take the necklace falling *just so* to fall overboard.

02-20-2013, 06:31 PM
My experience with gondoliers is that they can either be pretty above board or pretty sketchy. Maybe your characters end up on one of the sketchy guy's boats. Remember that in Italy, sketchy creepy dudes are pretty commonplace (I suppose in the US too).

03-30-2013, 10:11 AM
I know this is older, but I had to reply.

The water in the canals is NAAASSTY! Someone above mentioned jumping into retrieve something. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind getting in that water on purpose (unless to save someone's life).

I went on a gondola ride in Venice back in 2004. I remember the boat rocking back and forth a lot, because on the Grand Canal not all boats mind the speed limit. And the smell. Some parts smelled like a big sewer (granted nearby canals were being dredged). The water was very murky and I recall it being green. I also remember seeing tampons floating in the water. Not romantic at all.

But, then we went right by Marco Polo's home near Rialto bridge. I looked up at that moment at the flags waving above...and was like yeah...I'm really here. Oh, and the buildings looks so tall from the boat.

04-01-2013, 11:49 AM
LOL loved your comment, hillcountryannie. Now that's a reality check. thanks so much for the info. That clears up a lot of things. I'll definitely go with my original idea (Mc falling accidentally and getting sick because of the water). Sounds realistic enough XD

05-10-2013, 12:24 PM
I lived in Venice for three years. If you've got a modern story, curtains on gondolas are not normal--the point is to see the city. Gondolier positions are limited and you must be apprenticed and then gain one of the limited positions. Generally it's passed down through families. The gondolier knows what he's doing (and in one case, what she's doing--she made international news for breaking that gender barrier). Water taxis and other boats with engines do share canals with gondolas. They're limited--certain canals are off-limits for motorboats--but Italians aren't big rule lovers. The water taxis are the ones with the bad rep for rudely making waves, which damage the buildings. Still, a gondola would stay upright. I rowed one myself while wearing ridiculous heels (hadn't known I'd end up rowing, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity, and it's a full body excercise) and while I could have landed myself in the canal, there was no way I would've flipped the boat or even rocked it enough to dislodge my occupants. It's traditional in Venice to take boats standing, depending on the exact circumstances of course, and the tourists who stand on the traghetti (a gondola that ferries people across the width of the Grand Canal) sure look ready to take a dive. Tourists manage to fall from dry land into canals all the time--not quite sure how they pull that off, but they're generally assumed to be amazingly clumsy. An enormous quantity of people travel through the city. Gondoliers want you to have a good time, so they're going to watch and try to keep a tourist from doing something overly dumb. The gondolier helps tourists to and from their seats, where they're quite secure.

At every blind canal corner (and the ones with mirrors), the "driver" shouts out "Oy!" to avoid a collision with someone coming from the other way. There is a hierarchy of who gets to go first depending on boat, and gondolas are at the top. The shouting back and forth that someone else mentioned is normal.

Many of the old buildings still flush all their sewage into the canals, which are regularly dredged. Only the canals that have not been dredged for some time smell. I've seen the canals all sorts of colors, and whenever the waters looked too weird, Marghera was blamed. The tide naturally flushes out the city. I know of more than one native party that ended with the entire crowd in the Grand Canal, which, being the widest, gets the clearest water exchange. An older man I knew said that when he was a child it was cleaner and the kids regularly played in the water. Generally speaking, though, natives today find the water disgusting. You can see how carefully they avoid it during acqua alta.

So, short answer: your character needs to do something very foolish or clumsy for it to be believable, but it can happen.

05-10-2013, 12:30 PM
Ah, perhaps I should add that it's not uncommon for a gondolier to invite an attractive young woman to try her hand at rowing, which means stepping up on the part of the gondola you could more easily fall off of. Most tourists are wearing fairly practical shoes for hiking the town, but I've seen women remove their shoes for this exercise. Really, this is one of those flirtatious scenes where the guy gets to oh-so-helpfully put his hands all over the girl so she is safe, perhaps, and show her how to move the oar within the forcula. Again, gondoliers want tourists to have a good time, so in real life I don't see extreme flirtation being inappropriately directed towards a couple enjoying a romantic outing, but I suppose you could orchestrate a scene in which the guy feels the need to leap out of his seat and fall over the side.

05-10-2013, 12:50 PM
Thanks so much for all the info, Dryad. I must state that my romance is gay so both MCs are men, but I suppose he could be nosy and ask the gondolier to let him row.
You gave me a great idea!

05-10-2013, 11:46 PM
Glad it was helpful!

The Venetians catch some slack from other Italians because Venetian men (friends) call each other "Love" (Amore). I thought it was endearing, myself. There's a a gay beach further down the Lido, a bit off the usual tourists' track. The guys will also give cheek kisses to each other, while Italians from other places, including directly on the mainland, tend to only greet women with a kiss, although women will kiss (baci) other women in greeting.

Depending on the gondolier, I think a strong interest to try rowing would be received convivially. My friend (a boat builder) simply coached me from his seat, but I've never seen a gondolier do that; I think they would want to stay in a position to grab either you or the oar if necessary.