Venice, Italy – The Travel Information You Need To Know

We're not the first ones to call Venice a magical place. A city build on islands in a shallow lagoon that used its vast wealth to build out and glorify itself. A place without motorized street traffic, that depends on boats and bridges to move its citizens and visitors from place to place.

Who hasn't dreamed of visiting Venice, for it's the very stuff that dreams are made of. Here we examine the means of arriving in this floating kingdom, including how to get from the airport to the centro. Let's also take a look at where to stay, what to pack, and how to act when you're there.

Arriving By Train

Arriving By Train

Despite being an island city, the train to Venice takes you right into its heart. You arrive in the Venetian district of Cannaregio, one of the six sestieri that constitute central Venice. (That is, on the main island.) In front of the station is a piazza where boats dock and that where you can gase across the Grande Canal at the miniature domed church of San Simeone Piccolo (pictured), next door to a nice budget hotel, Hotel Antiche Figure.

As you leave the station, to the left is a bridge that crosses the Grand Canal. You can take vaporetto line 1 or catch a water taxi to get to your hotel or the sites you want to visit.

It's important to remember that this train station on the island of Venice is called Santa Lucia. You don't want to get off the train at station Venezia Mestre, which is on the mainland, three miles away from the island across the lagoon. If your train only stops at Venezia Mestre you'll have to change at that station and catch another train to Santa Lucia.

Cruise Ships

Cruise Ships

Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive at Venice on a giant cruise ship. The cruise ship dock is also at the west end of the island, south of the train station, across a canal in sestiere Santa Croce. When a ship docks there are always water taxis and vaporetti available to transport passengers around the city.

The fragile medieval city that is Venice has been adversely affected by these massive ships and there is a movement to force the largest cruise ships to dock on the mainland, with train or bus transportation to the islands. It's ironic that while Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cruise ships continue to have a deleterious effect. It's no wonder that more and more Venetians are saying "no" to cruise ships.

Cars & Buses

In short, we discourage anyone from driving into Venice — take the train instead. If you do take a car into the city, it's much easier to park on the mainland and catch a boat or bus to the islands. Look for the San Giuliano Car Parks near Mestre on the mainland.

You are able to drive across the causeway into Venice, where you end up on the westernmost point, Tronchetto, a man-made island that was created just for parking. There is also island parking at Piazzale Roma, where buses disgorge their passengers (follow the signs). In both cases, the parking fees are high, as you might expect, and be prepared for long lines of cars waiting to get in.

Transfer from Marco Polo Airport

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A nicer alternative is to fly into the Venice international airport, Marco Polo (airport code VCE), and catch a water shuttle to the island city. Alilaguna, the Venice public transportation system, operates four water shuttle lines from the airport, going to different places in the island city and named after colours. You can buy tickets right at the docks and usually get help on what line to choose. There's complete information on their site.

However, if you know us you'll probably have guessed that our favourite way to get from the airport to our hotel is a private transfer by luxury motorboat. We like being met at the arrivals gate and escorted to the boat that's waiting for us. There are a maximum of six people per boat, you're taken to the dock closest to your hotel, and the service is surprisingly affordable.

What to Pack for Venice

What to Pack for Venice

Pack light. Venice is all about boats, arched bridges, and narrow streets. You don't want to be hauling around a couple of heavy, overstuffed, oversized suitcases. In fact, some of the water transportation limits the amount of luggage you can bring on board. Much like airlines, it's usually one suitcase of a certain size and weight.

Oh, and you know all those bridges and boats? Don't wear high heels during the day.

Stay On the Island

Best Venice Hotels

Don't be tempted to save money and stay in a cheap hotel on the mainland. You simply won't be happy making the commute to and from the Island City. We want you to enjoy your time in Venice and feel like you're part of city life. Stay in a nice hotel, eat at restaurants, take leisurely nighttime strolls or boat rides. Vivere La Vita Veneziana, live the Venetian life!

To help you out we've selected the twelve top hotels in Venice, from budget all the way up to 5-star luxury.

The People of Venice

People of Venice

Here are some facts to chew on. The population of Venice is lower than it's been at any time since 1000 CE. Every day Venice receives more visitors than there are residents. The population has been declining steadily for years — 175,000 in 1950 to 70,000 in 1996 to today at under 60,000.

This is striking when you consider that Venice was one of the largest cities in Europe in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. By the year 1600 the population was around 200,000. That includes the population of the Venetian islands in the lagoon, but today that overall figure is less than 90,000.

Venice is indeed a magical place, and there's really nothing else like it in the world. Of course we want to visit and marvel at its charms. Our advice is to tread lightly and respect the local residents. Don't act like an unaware tourist, but enjoy the city and do your best to take care of it.