Does anyone have recommendations for which gondola tour to take? There's the Grand Canal and the back canals. Is there anything with a bit of both?
If you must take a gondola ride then just tell the guy what you're looking for...where you want to go. Negotiate the price and be on your way. There are LOTS AND LOTS of gondolas around Venice just waiting to snap up tourist money. It shouldn't be difficult at all to find what you want.
In our experience, you really don't see a lot of gondolas out on the Grand Canal. Many are parked there and load passengers along the Grand Canal but then they go into the smaller canals between the buildings. Plus, there are really a lot of gondolas. Here's a link to one of my favorite pictures on this subject. http://gyazo.com/3ebca30dfbca2fca60b0cf109a2b7ffc
Here's another familiar gondola scene in Venice - http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#view=photo&position=66&with_photo_id=22325760&order=date_desc&user=3203848
In front of the Hard Rock Cafe is a good place to find many gondolas to pick from.
Lois, I was looking at other photos and sure enough, here's one that shows gondolas going down the Grand Canal. http://gyazo.com/decee57601e164af2a3cf2211fe636b4 Yes it does rain in Venice.