There are only two forms of transportation in Venice: your feet, and a boat. The public water transportation for Venice, the lagoon, and to the terra firma is run by the ACTV. Vaporetti, motoscafi, motonavi, etc., navigate the city and the islands beyond, including Burano, Murano, Torcello, and more.
There are also private water taxis, providing point-to-point luxury transport, with rates starting at €60 for city-center transfers for four people and luggage. Taxi transport from the airport starts at €95. The privately run traghetti, operated by the gondoliers, located at various points along the Grand Canal that will ferry you across for 50 cents.
Of course, there’s the gondola famosa, the transport of times past, now more of a pleasant than practical experience.
THE VAPORETTO (water bus). The vaporetto (so called because it was once steam-powered) is water-borne publc transport in Venice. It’s actually the name of only one of the types of boats of the ACTV fleet, but it’s probably the one you’ll see the most of, and the one it will be most important that you understand.
Tickets. You are responsible for having a valid ticket before boarding, available for purchase at tickets booths at all the major stops. If you board without one, purchase it immediately. The best deal is the travel pass, however, which allows unlimited travel on all ACTV public transport, land and lagoon, for a specified length of time.
See the ACTV site for current travel card fares. If you buy them in the city, the validity period starts from the first time you use it (just swipe the card across the machine outside the vaporetto stop). If you purchase in advance from VeniceConnected.com (at a discount), the validity period starts at purchase time.
NOTE that holders of the €4 Rolling Venice Card (for 14-29-year-olds) may purchase a 72-hour pass for €18,00. Sold at the TI offices at Piazzale Roma, Piazza San Marco, and the Pavilion just off the San Marco Vallaresso stop. Rolling Venice cards entitle the holder to other discounts throughout the city; for more info see venicecard.com.
Tickets can be bought at the airport (to the left as you exit baggage claim), at Piazzale Roma, and any of the main vaporetto stops (Ferrovia, San Zaccaria, San Marco/Valeresso, San Tomà , Rialto).
Waterbus stops: Le Fermate. Waterbus stops can have only one dock, where the number 1 will stop no matter what direction it’s gonig in; but it can have a plethora, with multiple lines, and multiple docks depending on the direction the vapoetto will be heading. The larger stops (where you’ll always be able to buy tickets) are:
- Piazzale Roma. The end of the line for anything with wheels. If you’re dropping off your car or coming in on a bus, this will be your last stop.
- Ferrovia: The railway station (Venezia Santa Lucia). #1 will be on your right as you exit the station; 2 and the other express lines will be on your left, and the circular routes beyond them. There are booths on both sides for ticket purchase.
- Rialto: The Rialto bridge. There are two docks for Line 2 is the closest one to the bridge; the docks for the #1 is further down, away from it.
- Accademia: The Accademia bridge. There are two docks where both Line 1 and Line 2 pass.
- San Marco / Valleresso: Why these have two different names we’re not sure, but it’s a great place to become totally confused. The 2 departs from Valleresso to go up the Grand Canal, and is the last stop coming down. Line 1, however, will continue on to San Zaccaria on the other side of Piazza San Marco, and on to Lido. (This is also one of the Alilaguna stops to and from the airport. See airport arrival for more details.)
- San Zaccaria: The Grand Central Station of Venice, un vero casino. Almost every boat in service goes and comes from here, you can spend the day wandering up and down trying to find it’s departure point. However, if you want to get anywhere in the lagoon or Venice itself, you can do it from here.
WORTH NOTING: Stops with more than one line will have more than one dock, one on the left, and another on the right. The right dock will be for the boats heading left, and vice versa. To avoid racing out of one to catch your boat arriving at the other, verify the correct direction noted on the signs overhead as you enter the dock.
WATERBUS ROUTES. Think of the bus lines being divided into several categories, depending on their routes:
- The lines that take you through the city and down the Grand Canal (1, 2)
- The paired lines, circular routes around the city (41/42, 51,52, 61/62, odd numbered lines run CCW; even ones, CW)
- The lines that run throughout the lagoon (LN: Laguna Nord to Burano from San Zaccaria and Fondamenta Nuova, DM: Diretto Murano from Fondamenta Nuova, T: Torcello from Burano), and 20, from San Zaccaria to San Servolo and San Francesco and back.
- The (seasonal) fast lines to and from San Marco (Bis and from Piazzale Roma, Ferrovia and Rialto, 5, to and from Murano from San Zaccaria.
View or download the ACTV Venice vaporetto/waterbus route map pdf here.
City Lines: 1, 2. These are the lines you’ll likely use the most. Between them, they’ll traverse the Grand Canal and Giudecca canals, connecting Venice with Lido, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Giudecca and the Zattere. Line #1 runs more frequently (every 10 minutes) and stops everywhere; Line 2 runs every 20 minutes and has fewer stops. During the season, Line 2 will extend is course to Lido, and buses will be added that run from Piazzale Roma and the Ferrovia only to Rialto: Solo Rialto.
THE TRAGHETTO. There are only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal: The Accademia, The Rialto, and the Scalzi (near the train station), and the Ponte della Constituzione from Piazzale Roma to the Ferrovia. If you’re some distance to one of these, need to cross, and you (just) missed the vap, head for the nearest traghetto stand: the plain-Jane sister of the gondola that ferries passengers back and forth across the Grand Canal, now at €2 a pop. You’ll marvel at the agility of this seemingly unnavigable oddity as you’re threaded across the flotilla of Canal craft. Passengers will usually stand in them to allow as many as possible to board.
The traghetto stands can be off the beaten path and may require a little wandering to locate, but will be marked on most Venetian maps. Keep looking for TRAGHETTO-> signs in the calle as you get nearer.
WATER TAXIS. Taxi fares start at €60 for four people and luggage, and go up from there. Though damaging to interior canals, it’s certainly an elegant way to tour the city if it’s within your budget. If you have a group and lots of luggage, a taxi from the airport, train station or Piazzale Roma to your hotel will afford you a direct, comfortable entrance into the city (just make sure to confirm the price before you depart). Taxi drivers will not take credit cards, so stop by a bancomat beforehand if you need to. Be careful, however, to avoid private or unauthorized taxis (the authorized ones have license plates with black numbers on a yellow background). Also be aware that you will be charged for anytime a taxi has to wait.
To order a taxi at anytime, call 041.723.009 There are also taxi stands at all major boat stops as well, including San Marco, Rialto, and the San Giglio stops.
THE GONDOLA. Once as common in Venice as the automobile is everywhere else today, the gondola has become the cliché of Venetian tourism. Still, it offers something that can be had nowhere else in the world, and so we gladly hand the gondolier our €80 (per boat, not per person) after he has skillfully maneuvered us (oh-ey!), perched high on the stern of this unwieldy craft, with a single oar, through this legendary and evocative canal-city, and we are pleased. Consider waiting til twilight or nightfall to get the full effect (even though you’ll pay €20 more).
Finally, call HelloVenezia, +39 041 2424, anytime from 8a – 8p (English spoken) for all your transport and event questions. This is an underutilized service that can assist you anytime for ACTV schedules, stops, routes, and city event information.