Getting around Venice

Vaporetto water buses, water taxis, gondolas, and walking the streets of Venice

Kayakers on the Grand Canal in Venice
OK, while it's highly unlikely you'll get around Venice by kayak like these two brave souls, this photo does also feature the two most common means of public transportation in Venice: a floating dock serving as a stop for the vaporetto (public water bus), and, parked to its left, a sleek motorboat taxi acquei (water taxi).

Venice is the only city in Italy where you will not be constantly menaced by speeding Fiats, barreling buses, clattering trams, and swarms of scooters because Venice is the only city in Italy with absolutely no cars.

It's awfully hard to drive on canals, see.

There are only two ways to get around Venice: on foot, or by boat. Both are painfully slow, but only one requires you to buy ridiculously overpriced tickets.

My advice on getting around in Venice

As a practical matter walk whenever possible. Take the vaporetto for long hauls and to visit the outlying islands. Splurge on a water taxi perhaps only when arriving or departing the city with your luggage (though there are other, cheaper options to get into Venice from the airport, including a public ferry).

Here's more on each method:


Be prepared to go slow

Useful Italian
Where is?... - Dov'è?
left - sinistra
right - destra
straight ahead - avanti or sempre diritto

ticket - biglietto
city ferry - vaporetto
ferry stop - fermata
taxi - taxi
» more
Venice is a labyrinth of twisting narrow streets and innumerable blind alleys where many streets turn a corner only to bump into a brick wall or suddenly end in a few algae-clad marble steps that descend into the murky waters of a canal. Charming, yes, but frustrating and time-consuming for anyone trying to navigate their way across town. [» more on the layout of Venice]

You should know that the walk from Piazzale Roma and the train station neighborhood to Piazza San Marco to ogle the golden mosaics carpeting St. Mark's cathedral and grand Renaissance decor of the Doge's palace will take about an hour.

Even on the vaporetto (a public ferry—think of it like a bus on the water), the slow chug down the Grand Canal from the station to San Marco takes 20 to 30 minutes. What's more, it costs a whopping $8.50 for a single ticket!

Upon Arrival
Here's more information to help make sense of Venice's public transportation when you first arrive, whether by plane (getting into Venice from the airport), by train (the rail station and which vaporetto to grab), or by car (where to park, and where to go from there).

Don't get me wrong: for what amounts to a cut-rate cruise past the Gothic palaces and grand old homes of the Grand Canal, $8.50 is a pretty good deal. As a daily commute, though, it can get to be a pricey pain.

There are also taxi acquei (water taxis) (which are even more pricey)—and, of course, that ancient and most Romantic ways of getting about on the water in Venice, the gondola (obscenely expensive, done more for the experience than as a mode of transport, especially as they usually return you to the same spot where you got on the gondola; for a brief, near-gondola experience that costs mere pocket change, try the traghetti gondola-like ferries that cross the Grand Canal).

Considering you often have to wait 10 to 20 minutes for a vaporetto, the practical upshot is that, no matter what your mode of transportation, you'll be lucky to get anywhere in Venice within an hour. So just plan for that, and take things slowly.

Tips & links


Venice links & resources

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