I’ve always thought that you can’t really begin to know a city until you feel comfortable using its public transportation. Usually, that means getting acquainted with the city’s subway routes and fare collection methods. In Venice, it means riding a vaporetto.
Vaporetti are water buses, and they serve both residents and tourists, with one not-so-slight difference: The basic fare for residents with a local ID card is €1.50, while for everyone else it’s €7.50. Venice hasn’t stayed rich for a thousand years by not looking out for the main chance.
At those prices, it makes sense for a visitor to buy a multi-day tourist travel card, which allows unlimited vaporetto use for a set fee, starting at €20.00 for one day.
Once you have your card, you’re set to explore Venice by water—the easiest, quickest, and most relaxing way to orient yourself to the city.
Along the Grand Canal
This is the best Travel Tip I can give anyone visiting Venice. Here’s what to do:
Go to the nearest vaporetto stop, and board the first boat from the No. 1 vaporetto line that comes along. The No. 1 line runs the length of the Grand Canal, which is Venice’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York. Unless you board at the beginning of the route, you’ll probably wind up either riding inside, or standing on the deck.
Ride to the end of the line, at which point the boat will go out of service, and you’ll have to disembark.
Now find the nearby boarding dock for the return trip. Stay near the boarding point, so that you’ll be among the first people allowed on board. Then head immediately for the limited number of seats in the outside areas at the front or the back of the vaporetto.
You’ll have a comfortable seat with a terrific view as you ride to the end of the line.
Repeat as often as desired.
You can ride on the inside, which is convenient if the weather’s bad, but for the best trip, try to get an outside seat.