Venice Transportation – How To Get Around In The Floating City

It's a city of islands, so the best way around is by boat, right? Well, yes and no. Don't forget that Venice is also an extremely walkable place; it's easy and fun to stroll from site to sight on the main island. (With the occasional detour to reach a bridge!) But if you want to pay a visit to other islands like Giudecca, Burano, Murano, or San Giorgio Maggiore, you're going to have to use water transportation.

You can book a guided tour to some of the islands, (and we love doing that) but Venice also has an extensive, watery public transportation system that can get you anywhere you want to go. There are quite a number of routes (some of which run round the clock), different type of boats, and a choice in tickets and passes. Don't worry, though, we're created this simplified guide to make it easy to understand transportation in Venice. All aboard!

Public Transportation in Venice

Public Transportation in Venice

The public transportation system in Venice is run by a city company called ACTV. Not only is travelling by boat often the best way to get around, it's also lots of fun, providing you a chance to see the sights of Venice from its canals and the lagoon.

We usually refer to the ACTV boats as vaporetti (one boat is a vaporetto, we suspect they were named for the steam engines that the original boats used), but there are actually three or four different types of boats — vaporetti, motoscafo, motonavi. They all have single decks, except for the double-deck motonavi that runs out to Burano and Murano. You don't need to worry about which type of boat to take, since only one type sails on the line you're using.

You can buy tickets for single rides, but that way is quite expensive at over €7 a pop. It's usually better to buy a travel card; the cards are available in twelve-hour increments (12 hours, 24, hours, etc) with the best value being a 7-day pass at about €50. You can buy these at dockside tickets booths and from vendors throughout the city. These days, instead of punching your travel card at the loading dock, you simply hold it up to the electronic reader.

If you don't have a ticket and there's no ticket machine at the dock, you're still able to purchase a ticket from the boat conductor. Let him or her know when you board that you need to buy a ticket. But, then again, the travel cards are a much better value.

Vaporetti Routes

Click for full-size map

The one route that every visitor gets to know about is line 1, which sails a slow cruise down the Grand Canal, stopping at every landing. It's a good way to see the sights, but it is often crowded with tourists. Line 82 is another boat that traverses the Grand Canal, but with only a few stops; this line also sails out to the Lido during the summer months.

The glassmaking island of Murano is served mainly by lines 41 and 42, which also circle the main island. Burano and Torcello can be reached on line LN. A number of lines serve the Lido, including LN, 1 and 82. Don't worry about memorizing that stuff. It's simple to figure out what line to take by using the Vaporetti Line Map and consulting the line maps posted at each landing.

Water Taxis

Water Taxis

The quickest, sleekest, and we think the most fun way to get around Venice is by water taxi. Of course they're more expensive than the ACTV boats, but they make you feel like a doge or a modern-day celebrity arriving in a limousine. Every water taxi is a sleek white or polished wood, sailed by a professional driver. There are around 16 water taxi ranks around the city and islands, including one at the Lido and at the airport.

All water taxis have cabins that can hold up to ten people, so the cost is not bad when split among a group. They are definitely more comfortable and faster than the vaporetti. Rates, charged per minute, are regulated by law. There may be extra charges for extra luggage, for waiting, and for calling a taxi to your hotel.

Venetian Streets & Numbering

Venetian Streets & Numbering

The mental map Venetians have of their city is charming, but can be confusing for visitors. They use a colourful variety of terms to describe their canals, land-side streets, alleys, and other walkways.

Rio is a small canal (or water street as we think of), but can also be used for a former canal that has been covered over to create a pedestrian street, although those are sometimes distinguished by rio terrà. Campo means square (probably from the Latin word for field), but also refers to the district around the campo. Piazza also refers to a square, one that's larger than a campo. (Somewhere in between is the piazzetta.)

Fondamento is a walkway or street that runs beside a canal, usually named after the canal. Riva is a wider version of fondamento, most often found on the perimeter of the island, facing the lagoon. Sortoporitca = covered passageway and ruga is a street lined with shops. Ponte means bridge, of course.

Street addresses in Venice do not mean the same thing ours do. Perhaps the most confusing thing is that the building numbers aren't sequential. Building designations refer to the sestiere they're located in. Each building in a sestiere is assigned a seemingly random number between 1 and 6000, regardless of what street or what number is next to it. So, the luxury Gritti Palace Hotel's address is "Campo San Maria Del Giglio 2467, San Marco". That only tells you it's in building 2467 in sestiere San Marco. It's not next to 2465 or across from 2466. To help you find the hotel "Campo San Maria Del Giglio" is included to indicate that it's near the square next to the church of San Maria Del Giglio.

The moral? Make sure you get exact walking instructions.