Don’t be overwhelmed or afraid to ride the water buses in Venice, Italy. We are here to help!
Here is some helpful terminology on the water vehicles in Venice, Italy.
Vaporetto (plural, Vaporetti)
A water taxi that is easily accessible with luggage, strollers, wheelchairs, etc. because there are no stairs down into the cabin. The seats are all on the same level as the entrance ramp. There is a nice big open area out back, too. This is great for the Number 1 line – it travels along The Grand Canal and this makes for a fun scenic trip.
Motoscafo (plural, Motoscafi)
These water taxis travel better in open unsheltered waters outside of the grand canal. Once you board the motoscafo you can either go down a few stairs and ride in the front or down a few stairs and ride in the back. There really isn’t room to bring your luggage inside so we stored ours at the small space at the bottom of the stairs and we stood with our luggage. Because this open area isn’t covered you might get a little water sprayed on you and you will be cold in the winter! There is a very small open space at the very back of the boat for a scenic trip. But one warning: since these boats do travel in the open waters there are a LOT more wakes and there is a large chance of being SOAKED like we figured out! The main routes that use the motoscafi are the 4.1, 4.2, 5.1 and 5.2 lines.
Traghetto (plural, Traghetti)
These water taxis are large gondolas but without the decorations and fancy padded chairs. They simply cross the Grand Canal. There are a few tips and tricks to note about the traghetti. Guide books will tell you they are only 50 cents and if you want to ride a gondola in Venice and not pay top dollar this is the way to go. The thing is, these don’t have seats. You stand as you cross the Grand Canal on these gondolas. AND if you are not a local, the ride is â‚¬2. And it is tricky finding a traghetto that is operating. There are several spots along the Grand Canal with signs for the traghetti but chances are, the gondolier is taking a lunch break or enjoying an afternoon aperitivo. In our time in Venice, I only saw a traghetto running once.
I will admit when we first arrived I was overwhelmed by the idea of water buses and water taxis. I tried doing some research online in advance and I just couldn’t find a good guide. Everything was just so confusing and overwhelming. Our Airbnb host sent us some information that also confused me and I decided just to go with one of their route suggestions: The 5.2. We arrived at the train station – and keep in mind Venice has two â€œmainâ€ train stations. The one in-town on the mainland is Venezia Miestre and the one on the islands is Venezia St. Lucia. Chances are, you want Venezia St. Lucia if you are coming into Venice as a tourist.
Right outside of the Venezia St. Lucia train station is a large dock area with many vaporetto stops. The stop outside of the train station is called Ferrovia. The Ferrovia stop and the Rialto stop have multiple platforms with many lines stopping there. So be sure to look and see which line you need AND which direction you are traveling to be sure you are waiting on the correct platform. We couldn’t figure out which direction the 5.2 was traveling that we needed. We just winged it and crossed our fingers. A few days later I learned an important tip: The 4.1 and 5.1 travel counterclockwise around Venice. And the 4.2 and 5.2 travel clockwise around Venice. Ah, this makes sense now!!
Before you get on any of the water taxis, you will need a ticket. There is a large ticket office right there at Ferrovia at the train station. A single ride for a tourist is $7.50. Yes, you read that correctly. $7.50!!!! Thankfully, dogs do ride for free. But dogs do need to have a leash and they need to be wearing a muzzle. While just waiting to board two different water buses we were asked to put a muzzle on James.
Venice’s ACTV operates most of the water buses around the clock and your ticket will be valid on any of these. The only ones that are exceptions are car ferries (you can ride with your ticket as a pedestrian but you do need to pay additional fees for your car) and the airport taxi.
Depending on how long you are staying in Venice, it is probably a better option to buy a multi-day ticket. Here is the 2018 multi-day ticket pricing:
One Day travel card â‚¬20
Two Day travel card â‚¬30
Three Day travel card â‚¬40
Seven Day travel card â‚¬60
(And if you want a good comparison, the New York City unlimited one week Subway pass is $32!)
If you are planning on staying in Venice for longer than a week, I highly recommend applying for a Venezia Unica card Don’t confuse this with the tourist card. You want the “frequent usersâ€ version. It is â‚¬50 (â‚¬40 activation fee and then a â‚¬10 credit) BUT you pay the local ride rate of â‚¬1.50 NOT â‚¬7.50! And if you use the Alilaguna (airport water bus) to return back to the airport, be sure and show your frequent user card for a 50% discount on the ticket.
We suggest using the main HelloVenezia/ACTV office at the Piazzale Roma where you will find a ticket counter inside the building. You will have a photo taken and they make your Venezia Unica card while you wait. This ticket office is right across the big Calatrava pedestrian bridge just west of the train station.
Some other tips we want you to know about: The Number 1 Vaporetto is a nice cruise trip along the Grand Canal. Rick Steves has an app and we downloaded his audio tour of the Grand Canal. One of my favorite highlights is the canal with an odd stop light. It turns out, that canal has the fire station and when the light turns red that means the fire boats are coming out and you can’t enter that canal.
Another tip – some lines, such as the Number 2, don’t run their full routes in the low season. Be sure to check the map for seasonal routes. We were waiting for the Number 2 one day because I knew it went all the way to Lido di Venezia. We would have been waiting a LONG time – that route only runs the full route in the summer!
Here is a website from Durant and Cheryl Imboden – it is a wonderful resource for Venice:
Europe for Visitors
They also have a helpful Vaporetto route guide (where I finally learned that the 4.1 and 5.1 travel counterclockwise and the 4.2 and 5.2 travel clockwise around Venice):
Enjoy all the views and beautiful sunsets like this one the day we arrived in Venice: