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Getting Around in Venice




Grand Canal transportation || public domain photo, annotated by Jessica Spiegel

Grand Canal transportation || public domain photo, annotated by Jessica Spiegel

Venice is one of Italy’s most pedestrian-friendly cities, not least because there are no motorized vehicles on the streets. It’s also a deceptively small city (I say “deceptively” because it’s often so crowded you’d swear it was bigger). Still, visitors are often surprised at how long it takes to walk from one end of the city to the other.

So, yes – while you can walk everywhere in the canal city, it behooves you to learn about public transportation in Venice, too.

In most Italian cities, public transit options are plentiful. In Venice, they’re extremely limited. There are buses that only go as far as Piazzale Roma (near the train station), but otherwise you’re talking about different kinds of boats. I’ll go over each of them below.

Tickets for Public Transportation in Venice

The only boats in Venice for which tickets are applicable are the vaporetti (more info on these boats below), as all other boats require direct payment that varies in price depending on the duration or distance of the trip. You can buy individual tickets that are valid for a certain amount of time, or you can buy daily or weekly passes if you’ll be in Venice for awhile and taking the vaporetti often.

After purchasing a ticket, you must validate it before boarding the vaporetto. Validation machines are usually located at the edge of the walkway that leads to the vaporetto stop itself, and they’ll leave a timestamp on your ticket that starts the clock on its validity ticking. Yes, I’ve heard of people who feign ignorance to re-use one ticket repeatedly, but those people are also fined pretty heavily when they’re caught. I validate my tickets, and I suggest you do the same.

Your ticket options are:

  • Single Ticket (Biglietto Navigazione) – €7.50 – A ticket good for a single trip. It’s good for 75 minutes after the first validation on vaporetti (operated by ACTV), but cannot be used on Alilugana lines (boats that cross the lagoon to/from the airport) or ACTV routes 16, 19, or Casinò.
  • 1-Day Ticket – €20.00 – A vaporetto pass good for 24 hours from the first validation. Also valid on local buses.
  • 2-Day Ticket – €30.00 – A vaporetto pass good for 48 hours from the first validation. Also valid on local buses.
  • 3-Day Ticket – €40.00 – A vaporetto pass good for three days from the first validation. Also valid on local buses.
  • 7-Day Ticket – €60.00 – A vaporetto pass good for seven days from the first validation. Also valid on local buses.
  • Rolling Venice Card – €22.00 – If you’re between the ages of 6-29 you can get a Rolling Venice card, good for three days of travel on ACTV vaporetti and local buses. Add another €12.00 and it includes round-trip bus service to/from the airport.

You may be looking at those prices with raised eyebrows, comparing them to public transit tickets in other cities – and yes, a vaporetto ticket costs quite a bit more than, say, a bus ticket in Rome. Venice residents pay lower prices for transit tickets, with good reason, and the higher cost for visitors helps keep the fragile city afloat. I’m not fond of hearing people complain about the discrepancy in the ticket prices for locals vs. visitors. If you think it’s too expensive, you can walk. Ahem.

Boats in Venice

Vaporetto

A vaporetto is basically a bus boat. There are 21 lines, including those that serve other islands in the lagoon (like Murano, Burano, and Torcello). Lines 1 and 2 are among the most popular with visitors, because they both run the length of the Grand Canal. Line 1 is slower, stopping at almost every single stop, which means you can treat it like a tour. If you’re just trying to get from the train station to St. Mark’s Square (or vice versa) more quickly, take line 2, which stops at fewer points. You can check out a vaporetto map on the ACTV site, and I’d also recommend picking a paper map up when you get there for reference. (Otherwise, quite frankly, maps in Venice are all but useless).

Venice vaporetto || creative commons photo by Andrey Surikov

Venice vaporetto || creative commons photo by Andrey Surikov

Traghetto

There are only four bridges crossing the Grand Canal, but you don’t have to stick to those bottlenecks. Instead, climb into a traghetto like the Venetians do at one of the seven traghetto stops along the canal. Traghetti look like less fancy versions of gondolas, and they’re operated by two people instead of one. You’ll pay €2 euro in cash when you board, and you’ll see that the locals stand rather than sit – it’s a pretty short trip from one side of the Grand Canal to the other.

Venice traghetto || creative commons photo by Gary Houston

Venice traghetto || creative commons photo by Gary Houston

Water Taxi

There are private motor boats all over Venice, including plenty of water taxis. They’re much faster than the vaporetti, of course, but they are also considerably more expensive. There aren’t any flat rates with Venice’s water taxis, so the fares I’m quoting here are just estimates. From the airport to central Venice can easily cost €100 or more, and a trip between the train station and St. Mark’s Square can run €50-70. If you’ve got a large enough group (water taxis can usually fit up to 10 people), splitting the cost might make it more palatable.

Venice water taxi || creative commons photo by Elliott Brown

Venice water taxi || creative commons photo by Elliott Brown

Gondola

Most people want to ride in a gondola during a trip to Venice. Some feel like they haven’t really had the true Venice experience without a gondola ride. Gondolas are absolutely not a way to get around the city, but I’m including them here because somebody’s going to ask me otherwise. There are official gondola fares set every year, and those fares are per gondola – not per person. If you’re planning to go for a gondola ride during your trip (and you’re not booking the ride in advance on Viator or Select Italy), it’s wise to learn about the official rates so you’re well-informed before you start talking to a gondolier.

Venice gondola || creative commons photo by Jorge Royan

Venice gondola || creative commons photo by Jorge Royan


3 responses to “Getting Around in Venice”

  1. Well done, Jessica! Very comprehensive and easy to understand.

  2. Nice summary! I will copy and save. I enjoy the vaporetto rides and now I understand which lines to take as well! Also could I mention the ACTV line that goes from the airport on the mainland to St. Mark’s Square. The boats look different from the Vaporetto boats. I have a picture of an ACTV boat in my blog: http://blog.learntravelitalian.com/arriving-in-venice-for-your-italian-adventure/

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note! I should do a separate article about getting between Venice and the airport, since that’s a whole other kettle of fish… 🙂

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