The gondolieri of Venice are a poor bunch, working day and night and hardly managing to scrape a living out of their business.
There are only about 400 professional gondolieri prowling the canals of the city with tourists. The official rate is €80 for 40 minutes, and a further €40 for 20 minutes more. This is, still officially, for the boat, not per passenger. The rate is higher in the evening.
Even at these prices, and even though we all see gondolas working all the time, sometimes so many they block the canals, they still cannot make ends meet.
According to the 2005 data (the most recent available) from the Italian tax agency a gondoliere in Venice on the average only make €16,000 a year. That means that the averange gondoliere only has one paying customer a day, for 200 days a year, provided they don’t do evening tours or anything longer than 40 minutes.
In fact, being a gondoliere is such a poor business that the municipality has to subsidise the Ente Gondola – the association of gondolieri in Venice – to the sum of €1,000,000 each year.
A gondola is an expensive boat, between €20,000 and €50,000 as new, and they do require some maintenance, but high costs of acquisition and maintenance is not the cause of gondoliere poverty.
The real reason for gondoliere poverty is that the Italian law explicitly does not require them to give the client a receipt.