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5 tips for getting to and around Venice, Italy

Grand Canal, Venice
Grand Canal, Venice

Venice is a world apart, a place like no other. Built on more than 100 tiny islands connected by more than 300 stepped bridges, the fish-shaped city retains the history of the ages in its graceful palaces, winding alleyways, and enchanting canals.

Adding to the elegance is the fact that Venice has no vehicle traffic once you reach the island—there are pedestrians and there are boats. Period.

So, how do you get to Venice and navigate your way around the city once there? These tips may help.

1. Venice is served by the Marco Polo Airport (VCE) in Venice Mestre on the mainland and by the Santa Lucia train station in the city itself. The train traverses a causeway that links the city to the mainland. Vehicle traffic is also permitted on the causeway, but ends at the Piazzale Roma parking area near the train station.

2. The simplest, but most expensive, way to get from Marco Polo Airport to the historical city of Venice is by private water taxi. These can be booked at the water taxi desk inside the airport after exiting the secure area with your luggage. You can also follow signs to the dock and hire a water taxi there. Prices may vary, but you can generally hire a taxi for four people for about €100; luggage and additional persons may incur extra fees. The trip to Venice takes approximately 20-30 minutes by this type of private speedboat service.

3. An affordable, simple option from the airport is the Alilaguna water bus line, operated by ACTV, about €15 one way. Ticket desks are available inside the airport and at the dock, though lines may be shorter at the dock. There are multiple lines going to Venice and other lagoon islands with boats departing every several minutes. During the high season, lines can be long and the water buses crowded. The trip takes about 1 hour, 20 minutes to reach St. Mark’s Square, but you can choose one of several stops from which to exit, depending upon the line taken. Ticket desk workers can provide you with a timetable and assist you with instructions. Be sure to validate your ticket before boarding, and to verify the boat is going to your preferred destination. Be aware that once you disembark, you may have to weave your way through the crowds, carting your luggage over bridges, to reach your accommodations.

4. ACTV and ATVO both provide wheeled bus service from the airport to Piazzale Roma near the Venice Santa Lucia train station for about half the price of the Alilaguna water bus line. If using this mode of transportation, you will most likely still need to take the local vaporetto—or city water bus—from Piazzale Roma to a public stop near your destination. Land bus tickets may be purchased at machines in the airport baggage hall, at the ticket counter in the arrivals hall, or outside the airport at machines located near the departure bays.

5. From Piazzale Roma or from the Venice Santa Lucia train station, you can board the Line 1 vaporetto—the local water bus—for service to destinations around the city of Venice and to Lido island. Tickets are sold at dockside windows and are less than €10. Once again, keep in mind that you will be responsible for managing your luggage onto/off of the boat, through crowded pedestrian areas, and over bridges to your final destination. Other lines are available to many destinations in Venice and the Venetian Lagoon. Be sure to validate your ticket before traveling and to take the vaporetto going in the direction of your choice; ticket sellers and vaporetto staff can assist you. The ride from the train station to St. Mark’s Square takes about 40 minutes.

And what should you do once you’ve reached your destination and dropped off your luggage? Why, head out into those narrow, romantic passageways and get lost, of course.

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