The city of Venice is split between the mainland and an island. The airport and actually, most of the city is on the mainland, while the well-known historic center is on the island. Shaped like a fish, the island is divided into approximately two halves by the winding Grand Canal.
The Canal starts by the mouth of the fish and the central train station connecting the city to the mainland. It winds around under the Rialto Bridge and ends near the tail of the fish by the Plaza of San Marco.
Much of Venice is walkable, but the water buses, or vaporetti (plural, singular is vaporetto), are the city’s public transportation. They are the best option for certain places or situations. If you plan to visit other islands, you will need water transportation. If you are going from one end of Venice to the other, you might appreciate it.
There are several different water bus lines, but the two that travel the Grand Canal are #1 and #2. Familiarize yourself with the vaparetto map, although by your second or third ride, you will have it figured out. Each of these vaporetti go both directions, so you will have to determine which way you are heading. There are charts at each stop. Bus #1 stops at nearly every stop so it takes longer to go from one end to the other. Bus #2 is the faster one, but make sure your stop is on its route.
At this writing, a single ticket good for 75 minutes costs €7.50. If I’m going to be in Venice more than a day, I like to get a multi-day pass. Two days is €30, so using it four or more times recoups the cost.
When you use the vaporetti, you must validate your ticket. Touch it to the front of the validation machine – a green light will flash or the machine will beep or both. Walk out to the floating dock to wait for the water bus to come. The attendant (from the bus) will let you know when you can board – or you can just follow the crowd.
Many vaporetti have seats, but I like to stand near the rail so I can take better pictures. If you follow my lead, make sure you stand back from the gate when the attendant tries to open it.
To get to the islands, make your way to the stop, Fondamente Nove. You can choose from the different islands to visit, but again, check the map before you depart. There are over 100 islands in all, but public transportation is not available to all of them. Some highlights: Murano is known for its glass furnaces; Burano has Venetian lace; Torcello is a nature lover’s paradise; and San Michelle has Venice’s cemetery.
My favorite reason to use the vaporetti is for taking a ride along the Grand Canal. This great photo opportunity is worth doing more than once. I’ve ridden in the morning, mid-day, late afternoon and even at night. I love seeing the changing shadows!
For the best photos, pay attention to where the sun is hitting the buildings. The canal winds in different directions, so you may want to switch to the other side of the vaporetto in the middle of the trip. If you ride the same route in the morning and then in the afternoon, you will see both sides of the canal in the sun. Riding at night, gives a totally new perspective.
Enjoy a trip or two on the vaporetti the next time you are in Venice. It is an experience you won’t want to miss!