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Finding Your Way in Venice

People arrive in Venice by Air, Cruise Ship, train, bus and cars. If you arrive by air, you will land at Marco Polo Airport and if on a Cruise Liner, the ship will berth at either Stazione Marittima or at the nearby San Basilio Pier. These are just on the coastline with the islands of Venice within a short distance away – making it very easy to travel into Venice itself.

If arriving by car, you will pass over the long bridge (Ponte della Libertà) where you can see the Cruise Liner Terminal to your right, and then you will come to big car parks (Tronchetto or Piazzale Roma parking stations). The big Bus Terminal is here too that has both local buses and also Tourist buses arriving and departing from this area.

Trains arrive and depart from Santa Lucia Railway Station – and this is at the start of the Grand Canal, with water taxi and Vaporetti (water buses) leaving from the jetties here. You can also walk from the Railway Station into Venice itself from the Railway Station.

There are two main ways to get to your hotel (if it is in Venice itself and not on the mainland – in which case you could catch a bus from here or take a Taxi from the Taxi stand), take a water taxi – which is easiest if you have luggage to carry, or catch a Vaporetto.

There are many water Taxis – and you will see many while you are here in Venice – with their phone numbers on the side of the Water Taxi, so you can either call for one, or catch one that is stationed near where you are. Just tell the Water Taxi your destination and ask for the cost first, before hopping on-board. The cost also may vary depending on the time of day.

The Vaporetto ferries – operate on set routes, and all have a Number – which tells you their destinations. At the main wharf stops, there will also be an electronic board showing the Vaporetto Number and also when it will next depart from the wharf where you are.

On the Grand Canal there is also a Traghetto (Gondola type boat) that is used to cross over the Grand Canal, where a small number of passengers are carried, standing up on the Traghetto.

You can purchase a 1, 2, 3, or 7 day Vaporetto Tourist Pass – which gives you unlimited travel on the ATVO Vaporetti (Ferries) for the day or days of the Pass. The first time you use it, you need to validate the Pass. A 1 day pass is about 20 Euro and a 7 day pass is about 60 Euro, and you will find these Tourist Passes being sold next to the wharves and lots of other places too, including possibly from your hotel lobby. Using the Tourist Pass is the best value way to get around Venice, but sometimes the Vaporetti can get very crowded too. Keep a note of the number that the Vaporetto Ferry has when it comes to the wharf where you want to return to. It's a great service. Note also that you may need to change from one Vaporetto to another Vaporetto service to get to particular wharf destinations.

In Venice you will also see many Gondolas – with their boatmen dressed in their distinctive striped shirt and special hat. These Gondolas with their distinctive shape and shiny black colour are all made in Venice in the Squero boatyard next to the Rio San Trovaso Canal, and all have specially crafted seat cushions, ornate brassware and wood carvings. While they were used as a city transport, these days they are primarily used to take Tourists to travel through the smaller canals. It's is expensive to do, but one of those 'special Venetian moments' to enjoy.

There are also some Hotels that have their own boat Shuttle service, and there are also tour boats that take organised tours with a commentary through the Grand Canal and to other parts of the City.

Ultimately you have a choice of travel in Venice – using Water Taxis and/or the Vaporetti and both a great way to get around the City and its waterways. One of the greatest pleasures in Venice is just being out on the water, and some of the Water Taxis like to go fast too! The 'Lagoon' Lake covers a large expanse of water, and can get a big choppy while the 'Grand Canal' is also the biggest canal and has the most traffic. Travelling along the smaller canals is also a different experience too, getting up close to the homes of the Venetians with the water lapping to the walls of their homes.

Just standing at a wharf you will see a variety of boats coming by, everything from Ocean Liners to garbage boats, Ambulances, speedboats, Police boats and pleasure craft both large and small. This is very much a real city, not a Disneyland experience, so while you are here, look to go to some of the islands using your Tourist Pass and make the most of your time here in Venice.

Also beside the waterways you will also see many outdoor restaurants too, and getting a seat overlooking a canal or the Lagoon itself, adds to the enjoyment of the time you spend here in Venice. As much as there are many museums and places to visit, the real feel of Venice just comes from being here in a very special part of the world- and it is worth getting up early to experience the city as it wakes up, but equally early evening as the lights come on and the city sits back to relax at the end of the day.

WHERE TO STAY

Venice can be expensive but there is a real mix of hotels and apartment options both in Venice and also on the mainland. The closer you are to St Marco's Square, the more expensive it is likely to be, but equally the further you are away from St Marco's Square, such as on the mainland, the less the cost but then equally the less you feel the magic of Venice.

Venice is a maze of canals, but equally there is a maze of walkways with small bridges with usually around 10 steps to go up and 10 to go down. If you pick a place to stay that is not on a canal, you will be walking with your luggage. Equally, if you are on a small canal, your transport option will mostly be water taxis which can quickly become expensive, so before you decide on the hotel or apartment, look at a map of where the hotel or apartment is first and ask the question 'How far is it from a Vaporetto Wharf?" or "How easy is it to get to St Marco Square?".

The ideal is to have a view over the Lagoon or the Grand Canal – but these rooms also come with a cost.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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