Transport around Venice
One of the first questions almost every visitor to Venice asks is “How do we get around if there are no cars?” The answer is simple: either use your own two feet, or use a public boat known as the vaporetto. There is a third option, a private water taxi, but it’s so expensive that it’s not practical to use it for everyday travel in Venice.
Venice’s 106 square miles consist of 118 small islands connected by 404 bridges crossing 150 canals. No doubt while you are in Venice, you will be crossing a good number of those bridges and covering much of those 106 square miles! The Grand Canal snakes through the city, dividing it essentially in half. The city consists of six districts: Cannaregio, Castello and San Marco on the ‘top’ side of the Grand Canal, Santa Croce, San Polo and Dorsoduro on the ‘bottom’ side of the it. Finding addresses in Venice can be very confusing as an address only consists of a house number and its district, but no street name!
You should invest a few euros in a good map of Venice to help navigate its labyrinth of narrow streets. Pick a map with each of the six districts shaded in a different color marking the district boundaries, and also the main tourist routes highlighted in yellow. Major streets run from Rialto to the train station, from St. Mark’s to Rialto, from St. Mark’s to Accademia Bridge, from Accademia Bridge to Rialto on the San Polo side of the Grand Canal, and from Accademia Bridge to Rialto on the San Marco side of the Grand Canal. You can use these main streets to get to most of the must-see locations in Venice. A map with these routes highlighted is also a great aid in case you wander off the main path and need to find your way back.
Don’t worry too much about getting lost. You will. But you can’t ever get too
lost in Venice. It’s an island, after all. Some of the best exploring is done off the main streets.
The city has a method of helping you navigate to major locations by way of directional signs. These yellow markers point the way to the main areas of San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), Arsenale, Rialto, Accademia, Fondamenta Nuove, Ferrovia (the train station), and Piazzale Roma (the bus terminal). They are easy to use - , just look up and you’ll find them on the side of buildings on the first floor level. Remember that they are pointing you towards
a major landmark, but you still may have to do some walking before you get there.
The public transportation system all happens on the water. A local company, ACTV, runs a full line of boats called vaporettos, very similar to the bus system in a major city. Boats have route numbers, scheduled stops along each route, and run on a schedule.
Lines 1 and 2 run every 10 minutes between 06:00 and midnight on the Grand Canal. Line 1 runs from Lido island, up the Grand Canal and terminates at the far end of the canal at Piazzale Roma, stopping at every stop along the way. Line number 2 runs in a circle going up the Grand Canal, then around the Giudecca Canal ending back at St. Mark’s. This line makes only a few stops along the Grand Canal. You can tell which boats are Lines 1 and 2 by their size and colour; they are large, cream-coloured vessels holding several hundred passengers.
Other smaller vaporettos run to the other islands and also around the perimeter of Venice. The ACTV website
provides lots of helpful information. Each vaporetto dock posts route maps , and most have electronic boards that display arrival times of the next boats.
To use the vaporetto, you must purchase a ticket in increments of 1 hour, 12 hours, 24 hours and so on up to 72 hours. Ticket booths are located at the larger boat stops, and at the HelloVenezia office at Piazzale Roma (the bus terminal) and Ferrovia (the train station). If you need a ticket but there’s no ticket booth at the boat stop, you must ask the attendant on the boat to sell you one. The ticket has unlimited usage of any vaporettos within the timeframe the ticket was purchased for. You will need to validate the ticket prior to boarding the boat by swiping it over the front of a machine located at each boat dock. Random ticket checks are conducted on the boat, and fines are given if you don’t purchase a ticket. It’s a steep fine - up to 50€ per person - so be careful.
Here’s a link to the route map in PDF format
and a link to the current timetables for all the boats: