Gondoliers serenade Naples Island, despite passenger-less boats

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings over the past few weeks, Naples Island residents and those walking the canals have been serenaded by passing gondoliers who normally would be singing to customers inside the gondolas.

But The Gondola Getaway, an iconic staple of the community the past 38 years, had to close in March. So, founder Michael O’Toole recently began sending gondoliers into the canals anyway to sing to the neighborhood, bringing a sense of joy and normalcy to the area.

Luckily, Gondola Getaway had a busy December and Valentine’s Day, which O’Toole is predicting will get the company through the closure. Still, he’s nervous in what the economic landscape will look like after he’s allowed to open up again.

“Who’s going to be doing what when they come out of this? Is it just going to be back to normal? I don’t think so,” he said. “Are people going to be doing things like this? I don’t know. That’s my bigger worry. But, you know, we’ve done things like this, we’ve met the neighborhood, you gotta go positive.”

One aspect of the business he’d like to keep afloat after the pandemic passes is having his gondoliers serenade the neighborhood, whether they have customers or not, though there isn’t any model to support that since singing alone doesn’t bring in any income.

At this time in May, O’Toole would normally be gearing up with a team of gondoliers to visit Venice for The Vogalonga, an annual tradition they’ve participated in for the past 35 years, joining rowers from all over the world. However, the Vogalonga canceled its event, which would have taken place on May 31.

“I am super bummed, but of course the health and safety of the world sits much higher on the totem pole of life,” O’Toole posted on social media.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.