NAVIGATING VENICE'S CANALS: GONDOLAS AND THE VAPORETTO
With all the water flowing through Venice, it’s no wonder that boats are so important to residents and visitors alike. Here’s a rundown of two of the most popular vessels you can climb aboard to experience the canals of Venice.
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Traditional Venice Gondola Ride
The gondola could be a symbol for Venice. One of the most popular things to do in Venice, Italy, these traditional vessels were once the primary means of navigating the city’s maze of canals — it’s estimated that nearly 10,000 of these boats once plied their way through Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, gondolas (oarsmen) are romantic regalia of the city’s past. Approximately 350 gondolas remain in Venice, much to the delight of visitors in search of moonlit rides while the songs of gondoliers echo through the narrow canals.
Note that Venetians regard gondoliers as highly skilled practitioners of a noble trade. This, along with the expense of building a gondola (upwards of €20,000) and the high cost of living in Venice, contributes to the price of their services. Prices are supposed to be fixed by the city (about €80.00 for a 40-minute ride), but it’s not unusual for gondoliers to ask for more. Don’t be afraid to haggle or walk away. Additional services, such as singing or special guided tours, are considered add-ons.
Venice gondola tips:
- Hiring a gondola is the best, and sometimes only, way to see some of the more hidden areas of the city, as many Venice canals have no roads or walkways along them.
- Prices are usually higher for nighttime rides, where the rate can be around €100 for a short ride.
- Stands are located around the city or you can book a gondola ride through a Holland America Line Venice shore excursion.
How to Take the Vaporetto (Water Bus)
Water buses are a common sight on Venice canals. Venice is not a large city, so you can reach most points of interest by foot in a reasonable amount of time. For most Venice visitors, the vaporetto is great for a long ride up and down the Grand Canal while getting a feel for the city. It’s also essential for visiting some of the islands of the lagoon.
For those with mobility issues, or if you don’t feel like walking any more, the vaporetto is a great option. And most are wheelchair and stroller accessible.
You can find vaporetto tickets throughout Venice. Note that vaporetto is both the name of a specific type of vessel and a catchall term for all water buses running in and around the Venice canals. The main types of water bus are: vaporetto, single-level boats with large, open spaces in the middle commonly found in the city center; motoscafo, narrower vessels with enclosed cabins for travel on more open waters outside the Grand Canal; and the motonave, larger vessels resembling the vaporetto (can be single- or double-decked) used for traveling to more distant points.
- Single-ride tickets are quite expensive. If you think you’ll use the vaporetto a lot, purchase a Tourist Travel Card — available for durations ranging from 12 hours all the way up to seven days.
- Another option is the Venezia Unica tourist pass — more expensive but it also includes access to museums and other tourist attractions as well as public toilets.
- Try to nab a seat within a vaporetto’s outdoor seating area located on the stern —the perfect spot for sightseeing on your ride up the Grand Canal.
The canals are just the starting point. There are many more things to do in Venice, Italy. Visit incredible museums, watch Venetian glass blowing, or taste Venetian chocolate. Explore Venice’s canals on a cruise to Europe with Holland America Line.