How to get around Venice

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 06.06.2024

The topography of Venice is uniquely complicated, and at first glance its public transport looks as convoluted as a wiring diagram. But the network is nowhere near as daunting as it first appears: there are clear main routes through the warren of Venice’s alleyways, and you’ll need to get to grips with only a few of the water-bus routes.

Planning to spend time in Rome? Also read our guide on how to get around Rome.

How to get around Venice at a glance

  • Venice features a unique dual street system comprising both canals and pavements, offering distinct modes of travel.
  • Taking a water-bus is usually the quickest way of getting between far-flung points, though walking often proves faster for shorter distances
  • Once familiar with the city's layout, navigating Venice becomes less intimidating, with main thoroughfares in each district clearly identifiable.
  • Signage throughout central Venice, placed high on street corners, guides pedestrians to major landmarks such as San Marco, the train station (Ferrovia), Piazzale Roma, and the Rialto, facilitating easier exploration on foot

Not planning to limit yourself to only Venice? Explore our list of the best day trips from Venice.

Getting around Venice by water-bus services

All water-buses in central Venice are operated by ACTV, and there are two basic types: the vaporetti, which are the workhorses used on the Canal Grande and other heavily used routes, and the motoscafi, which are smaller vessels employed on routes where the volume of traffic isn’t as great. 

Be warned that so many services call at San Marco, San Zaccaria, Piazzale Roma and the train station that the stops at these points are spread out over a long stretch of waterfront, so you might have to walk past several stops before finding the one you need.

How to book tickets

Unless you intend to walk all day, you’ll save money by buying some sort of travel card as soon as you arrive. ACTV produces Tourist Travel Cards valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours and seven days, which can be used on all ACTV services within Venice. 

Tickets are available from most landing stages, shops displaying the ACTV sign and all the tourist offices. The ticket offices at larger stops are generally open 8am–9pm daily, whereas smaller ones tend to close between 3 and 5pm. If you can’t find anywhere to buy a ticket before you get on board, ask the conductor for one immediately – if you delay, you could be liable for a fine of at least €60.

Water buses in Venice:

  • #1: The #1 is the slowest of the water-buses, and the one you’re likely to use most often. It starts at Piazzale Roma, calls at every stop on the Canal Grande except San Samuele, works its way along the San Marco waterfront to Sant’Elena, then goes over to the Lido.
  • #2: The timetable of the #2 is immensely complicated, but essentially from around 9am to 5pm its clockwise route takes it from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio Maggiore, Giudecca, Záttere, San Basilio, Sacca Fisola, Tronchetto, Piazzale Roma, the train station, then down the Canal Grande to San Marco Giardinetti. The anticlockwise version calls at the same stops.
  • #4.1/4.2: The circular service, running right round the core of Venice, with a short detour at the northern end to San Michele and Murano. The #4.1 travels anticlockwise, the #4.2 clockwise and both run every 20min from about 6.10am to 7.30pm.
  • #5.1/5.2: Similar to the #4.1/4.2, this route also circles Venice, but heads out to the Lido (rather than Murano) at the easternmost end of the loop. The #5.1 runs anticlockwise, the #5.2 clockwise, and both run fast through the Giudecca canal, stopping only at Záttere, San Basilio and Santa Marta between San Zaccaria and Piazzale Roma. 
  • #12: For most of the day, from 4.30am until 11.20pm, the #12 runs every half-hour from Fondamente Nove, calling first at Murano-Faro before heading on to Mazzorbo, Burano and Treporti. It runs with the same frequency in the opposite direction. 
  • #N: The main night service (11.30pm–4.30am) is a selective fusion of the #1 and #2 routes, running every 30min from the Lido to San Zaccaria via the Canal Grande, train station, Piazzale Roma, Tronchetto, Záttere and Giudecca – and vice versa.
Venice landmark, Burano island canal, colorful houses and boats, Italy © StevanZZ/Shutterstock

Venice landmark, Burano island canal, colorful houses and boats, Italy © StevanZZ/Shutterstock

Getting around Venice by traghetti

There are just four bridges spanning the Canal Grande – the Ponte Calatrava (at Piazzale Roma), Ponte degli Scalzi (at the train station), Ponte di Rialto and Ponte dell’Accademia – so the traghetti (gondola ferries) that cross it can be useful time-savers. 

It is also the only cheap way of getting a ride on a gondola, albeit a stripped-down version, with none of the trimmings and no padded seats. There used to be almost thirty gondola traghetti across the Canal Grande, but today there are supposedly seven, only three of which – Santa Sofia – Rialto, San Tomà–Sant’Angelo and Campiello del Traghetto –Calle Lanza – are still in anything like regular operation. 

In theory, they run Mon–Sat 7.30am–8pm, Sun 8.45am–7pm, but in practice their hours are often much shorter, especially in winter. The other four routes that are still officially listed are: Ca’ Rezzonico–San Samuele, Riva del Carbon–Fondamenta del Vin, San Marcuola– Fondaco dei Turchi, and Fondamenta Santa Lucia (train station)–Fondamenta San Simeon Piccolo.

Finding a place to stay in Venice is just as important as figuring out the intricacies of public transportation. Our guide to the best places to stay in Venice will help you do just that.

Getting around in Venice by gondolas

The gondola, once Venice’s chief form of transport, is now purely an adjunct of the tourist industry. But however much the gondola’s image has become tarnished, it is an astonishingly graceful craft, perfectly designed for negotiating the tortuous and shallow waterways. 

To hire a gondola costs €80 per thirty minutes for up to six passengers, rising to €120 between 7pm and 8am; you pay an extra €40 for every additional twenty minutes, or €50 from 7pm to 8am.

Even though the tariff is set by the local authorities, it’s been known for gondoliers to extort even higher rates than these. If you do decide to go for a ride, establish the charge before setting off. 

To minimize the chances of being ripped off by a private individual making a few dozen euros on the side, take a boat only from one of the following official gondola stands: 

  • west of the Piazza at Calle Vallaresso, Campo San Moisè or Campo Santa Maria del Giglio; 
  • immediately north of the Piazza at Bacino Orseolo; on the Molo, 
  • in front of the Palazzo Ducale; 
  • outside the Danieli hotel on Riva degli Schiavoni; 
  • at the train station; at Piazzale Roma; 
  • at Campo Santa Sofia, near Ca’ d’Oro; at San Tomà, to the east of the Frari; 
  • or by the Rialto Bridge on Riva Carbon.
Grand Canal, Venice, Italy © Apple Kullathida/Shutterstock

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy © Apple Kullathida/Shutterstock

Getting around in Venice by gondolas water-taxis

Venice’s water-taxis are sleek and speedy vehicles that can penetrate most of the city’s canals, and can carry up to 10 people. Unfortunately their use is confined to all but the owners of the deepest pockets, for they are possibly the most expensive form of taxi in western Europe, with even a short trip from the train station to San Marco costing in the region of €100

All sorts of surcharges are levied as well: for each extra person if there are more than five people in the party; for each piece of luggage in excess of five items; and for a ride between 10pm and 7am. 

There are four ways of getting a taxi: 

  • go to one of the main stands (at Piazzale Roma, the train station, Rialto and San Marco Vallaresso); 
  • find one in the process of disgorging its passengers; 
  • call one by phone (Mon– Sat 9am–6pm 041 240 6712/6716/6746; all other times 041 522 2303); 
  • or book through the website

If you phone for one, you’ll pay a surcharge, of course. And if your hotel concierge calls a taxi for you, the surcharge could be even worse.

Want to get even better at understanding transportation options for your upcoming Italy trip? Read our detailed guides on how to travel between Venice and Florence and Venice and Rome.

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 06.06.2024

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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