When you need to get around Venice, you take a vaporetto; when it's time for (expensive) leisurely sight-seeing to remember for a lifetime, you hire a gondola. That's not to say you can't get some great views or shoot photos from the vaporetti, it just depends on whether or not you get an outside seat. I was fortunate.
Think of the vaporetto as a city bus that floats, one that you board at one of the well-marked docks along the Grand Canal. If you arrive in Venice by train (as we did) and plan to spend one day touring the city (as we did), it works well to take the vaporetto from the train station (Ferrovia stop) to S Marco stop near St. Mark's Square, then gradually work your way back in the direction of the train station in the course of the day.
There are two major lines used by most travelers, #1 and #2 - not too tricky. Line #1 is the "milk run," stopping at each station along the way; Line #2 is an express boat that makes fewer stops.
A few things to be aware of: If boarding at the train station and wishing to go to Piazza San Marco, check with the conductor if this boat goes there, as some go only as far as Rialto. Smaller stops have only one dock, so be careful you are catching a vaporetto heading in the right direction. Larger stops have separate docks, so make certain you queue up at the proper one. The electronic sign boards are most helpful and not difficult to figure out - even with a minimal understanding of the Italian language.
There are other options - traghettos (a shuttle service used by many locals) and water taxis (very expensive in my opinion), but using the vaporetto service is handiest for most visitors.
The best way to move around Venice is... by foot, but distances are not so short, and when we get tired a transport becomes a blessing.
Bus in Venice is vaporetto, a ship that stops in both sides of the grand canal and with carriers to the other islands. Though stopping quite often, the efficient work in docking saves time, allowing a trip quicker than expected. There are several tickets, so it's better to plan the visit before buying.
In Venice there are no streets, the canals are too deep to allow for underground tunnels, the ground is too soft to allow overhead rail. So, unless you wish to walk, you are pretty much limited to taking a variety of boats.
Of course, there are the traditional gondolas. A Mite expensive.
Water Taxi- speedboats. the driver isn't dressed in the traditional blue and white striped shirt and gondoliers hat, but he will get you anywhere you want to go fast! It will certainly cost you.
Vaporetto- this is the city's public transport system. Like all bus systems anywhere, there are a variety of lines. In Venice there are 19 lines that will take you everywhere around the city and the nearby islands.
Alilaguna is a private company seperate to ACTV who run most of Venices Vaporettos. They operate services between Marco Polo airport and Venice as well as a number of the other islands in the Venetian lagoon. As they are a seperate company the ACTV tickets are NOT valid on Alilaguna boats. You have to buy a seperate ticket for Alilaguna. Tickets can be purchased at the desk in the arrivals hall at Marco Polo airport and you can get one way or return tickets. A return cost €25 in February 2012 if buying at the airport. You can buy tickets onboard the boat (but I believe this costs a little more) or in advance online (for a little less) but the online purchase still has to be exchanged for an actual ticket at the Alilaguna desk in the airport.
Approaching Venice over water is a perfect way to start your holiday in this city and so I would recommend this way of getting there despite it being more expensive than taking the bus to P.le Roma. The boats have at least a couple of different routes (and I believe more in peak summer season) and these all have numerous stops. We took the blue line which took us to San Zaccaria (1 stop before San Marco) in about 1 hour 15 minutes and we were less than a one minute walk to the door of our hotel in Calle de Rasse.
If you sit on the right hand side of the boat you'll get some superb views as you approach the city.
An interesting quirk which we saw on our return trip to the airport resulted from the extremely cold weather Venice had been experiencing - ice on the lagoon! Yes, the Venetian lagoon had actually started to ice over. Whilst this caused little problem for the boat (it seemed anyway - we arrived only 10 minutes later than sheduled) it made for a sight I had not expected to see.
The easiest and quickest way to get around Venezia is by the vaparetto (waterbus). It has a set of 19 scheduled lines that serves locales within Venice and also travels between Venice and nearby islands (e.g., Murano, Burano, Lido, Torcello, etc.).
There is a special way to ride a gondola on the cheap. It is called a traghetto, and the embarkation places are listed on Venice maps by a line across the canal, usually in red, or dotted. I have included an example here to show you how to find the cheap ride. 50 cents (euros) a ride and the wait iine will not be long. If there are a lot of people, you get to stand up and go across.
You can return home and tell your friends that you rode a gondola 4, 5 tiimes... :-)
for more info check this out:
One of the many types of transportation which tourists often use to transit up and down the Grand Canal is the "Vaporetto". These boats are designed to carry large numbers of people and function much as buses would on land and they are usally full to the brim. The Vaporetti have designated, named station/stop along the canal, such as Ferrovia, Rialto, S. Marco, etc.
We did not have a great experience on our one vaparetto trip from San Marco to Ferrovia, the closest stop to our hotel. After standing in a long line just to buy tickets, we were caught in a virtual stampede to board the boat. Standing cheek-to-cheek, people had to hold on to anything higher or lower than themselves to remain upright. If you were unlucky enough to be near the sliding boarding gate such as we were, which alternated from side to side, not only did you get pushed by those leaving the boat, but the boat attendant constantly admonished you to move aside, but there was no place to go. He really became very angry with one man who simply ignored him and I thought there would be a fight, but thankfully it didn't go that far. To add to the discomfort, the ride was unmercifully long (45 minutes!?)because the vaporetto stopped at each and every station/stop!
Vaporetto tickets are good for 60 minutes and cost 6,50 Euros (2011 price). You can also purchase a 72-hour ticket for around 30 Euros or so. You might consider buying a monthly pass (abbonamento) for roughly 30 Euros if you are staying more than just a couple days. However, you will also need a passport-sized photo, a photocopy of your passport, and you must purchase an ID card (tessera) for 8 Euros. Tourists under the age of 30 may purchase a "Rolling Venice" card which gets you a 3-day travelcard for around 20 or so Euros which seems to be the best deal for the young!
Purchase these tickets at the ACTV ticket office located across from the Piazzale Roma (at the other end of the building from the People Mover).
Considering nearly every vaporetto I saw during our stay was packed to the gills and the cost is high if you are unable to get discounted tickets, I preferred walking as much as possible.
If you want to do something special with the vaporetto Linea 2, embark at the third pontoon at San Zaccaria (facing the hotel Danieli *) direction Giudecca. Check well that you are on the right pontoon because in summer Linea 2 also continues to the Lido de Venezia.
The first stop is the island and church of San Giorgio Maggiore. Here you have the best views on Venice, visit the campanile; you'll never forget (photo 2). Then follow the various stops on the Giudecca canal; the boat is crisscrossing the canal. There are not much passengers on this part so that you might have a seat at the bow (photo 1).
You will see on the right the harbour with the huge cruise ships (photo 3), then reach Piazzale Roma, the station and finally be back on the Canal Grande. It is a long trip, 50 minutes from San Zaccaria till the Rialto, but it will be one of your best souvenirs of Venice.
* Even if I was rich enough I would not stay at the Danieli Hotel. This hotel has no terrace on the water but on the roof, it faces the very noisy pontoons of San Zaccaria (Linea 1 & 2 as well as larger boats like the one of linea 15 coming from Punta Sabbionni - photo 4). Furthermore the Riva degli Schiavoni is as crowded with tourists as Piazza San Marco. There are better, let say more romantic places in Venice.
The first thing you will observe taking a vaporetto is that they are very crowded. Worst hours are in the morning going from Piazzale Roma to San Marco and even worse the returns from San Marco around 16 - 18 h. It can therefore be useful if you are at San Marco and have to go back to Piazzale Roma to take first a vaporetto in the opposite direction for one or two stops till Arsenal, for example, where the Linea 1 vaporetto is not crowded. You will have observed that at some stops there are one or two pontoons (sometimes more like at the Rialto or San Zaccaria). Look out that you are on the pontoon in the wanted direction. Indications are very clear.
The second thing you will observe is that on the main lines 1 and 2 (Grand Canal) there are two types of boats:
The "good" vaporetto's for sight seeing are those who have a dozen seats at the bow in front and on the side of the pilot cabin (photos 1, 2 & 3). If you get a seat there it is a wonderful experience. It is the best spot to film or take photos of the Grand Canal; you have to remain seated.
Behind the pilot cabin is a central space supposed for disembarking and embarking. In this central standing platform there are no handrails, you are supposed to keep your balance like the Venetians do. Behind is a large closed cabin where passengers should go and sit (if there is room to sit). At the stern of the boat are also some seats, in the open, also a good place for sight seeing.
The "bad" vaporetto's have no seats at the bow (photo 4).
The third type are smaller ones which you find on lines 41 & 42 to Murano. They are low on the water and not comfortable for sight seeing.
The third thing you will observe is that it takes time: 40 minutes from Piazzale Roma till San Marco Vallaresso by Linea 1 (30 min. by Linea 2 via Rialto). Frequency is 10 min. (most of the day) and they are well on time!
Easy way to go around in the city, but pricely if you buy the wrong tickets.
1 hour: EUR 6.50
12-HOUR TRAVELCARD: EUR 14
24-HOUR TRAVELCARD: EUR 16
36-HOUR TRAVELCARD: EUR 21
48-HOUR TRAVELCARD: EUR 26
72-HOUR TRAVELCARD: EUR 31
3-DAY YOUTH CARD (14-29 yrs): EUR 18
Also check on CARTAVENEZIA CARD that might save you some bucks.
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