I lived in Venice for five years without ever going on a gondola stroll along the Grand Canal. My friend and I used to say it was too touristy for us, but actually the real issue was that, as university students, we could have never afforded it. But like true Veneziani, we got on a gondola almost everyday to cross the canal using a Traghetto Gondola. Gondolas employed for this kind of service are different from the ones used for the longer itinerary around the lagoon: they have a flat bottom and are known as 'gondole da parada'.
They connect the canal in eight different spots:
Train Station and Fondamenta S.Simeon Piccolo
S.Marcuola and Fontego dei Turchi
S.Sofia (Ca'd'Oro) and Rialto Market
Riva del Carbon and Riva del Vin in Rialto
S.Tomà and S.Angelo
S.Samuele and S.Barnaba
S.Maria del Giglio and Calle del Traghetto in Dorsoduro
While the average Gondola ride starting price is €80.00/€100.00, getting on a Gondola da Parada to cross the canal costs between €0,70 (this is the local residents' fare) and €2.00.
Obviously, it is not as romantic and spectacular as the full tour of the Grand Canal with the Gondoliere singing 'O Sole Mio!' just for you and your sweetheart, but it offers an authentic experience in Venice and a quick way to cross the canal and change sestiere (neighborhood). So even if you have planned the full romantic gondola tour of the Grand Canal, do not miss the chance to try the gondola Traghetto as well. Every time I go back, I do not miss the chance to get on a Gondola da Parada and try my luck at keeping the balance without a splash in the canal!
This video shows you a ride between Rialto Market in the sestiere San Polo and Santa Sofia in Cannaregio.