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A Quick Guide to Visiting Venice

Updated on July 9, 2017
Mariaelizabeth profile image

Travel enthusiast and violinist who likes reading and horticulture. Maria Elizabeth is from the UK and has English and Italian parents.

View towards San Marco and Palazzo Ducale
View towards San Marco and Palazzo Ducale | Source

Venice Overview

The metropolitan city of Venice is a collection of 118 islands which are located close to each other in the middle of the Venice Lagoon with over 350 bridges to connect some of the main areas. The lagoon is separated from the open sea by a long and narrow string of islands. The largest is known as the Lido and is renowned for its glamorous beach life.

Venice is the capital of the Veneto region with a population in the old Historical Center, of about 60,000. Combined with the city of Padua, there is a total of about 1.6 million inhabitants. Venice is known for its spectacular views and architecture, many of which have been immortalised by the great masters of art such as Canaletto and Turner. Also the classical composer Vivaldi, famous for his "Four Seasons" was born there and it was in Venice that he composed many of his works for the children's performances at the Pieta, an orphanage also in Venice, which still exists today as a charity. One of the most famous sights in Venice center is the famous Piazza San Marco, or St Mark's Square, which is on the edge of St Mark's Basilica, bell tower and the Doge's Palace or Palazzo Ducale formerly a seat of Venetian government.

The northern end of Venice's old town leads to the mainland by a long road and railway bridge. In the vicinity are the railway, bus station and car parks. The rest of the Old Town area cannot be reached by car, but the streets of the area, most of which are quite narrow, are just for pedestrians. The most important intra-city transport routes between the islands are the canals through which the boats and water buses travel with various rules of usage and speed. The best-known Venetian touristic boats are known as gondolas though this isn't the way that most tourists travel as there are water buses or vaporetti and water taxis. The main canal winding through the centre of the main islands is the wide Grand Canal, which leads to the vicinity of St Mark's Square. Of its border bridges, the most famous is the Rialto (Ponte di Rialto).

Detail from the Front Arch of St Mark's Basilica
Detail from the Front Arch of St Mark's Basilica | Source

Getting to Venice

Most flights to Venice fly in to Venice Marco Polo Airport, 12km outside Venice, east of Mestre. Some other budget airlines also use Treviso Airport, about 5km southwest of Treviso and a 30km, one-hour drive from Venice.

There are a number of options to get from the airport to the heart of Venice, including buses, water buses, taxis and reliable passenger ferry links. A taxi ride over the causeway to Venice’s Piazzale Roma (the end of the road in the pedestrianised historic centre) costs €40 to €50, but from there you'll still need to either walk or get a water bus known as a vaporetto or take a water taxi the remainder of the way. ACTV who run the Vaporetto water bus service are likely to get you much closer to your final destination at least as fast. Motorboats as taxis can be booked at the airport.

If travelling by rail, the Venezia-Santa Lucia train station in Venice is where you get off. It is on a major rail line served by local, regional, and high-speed trains. Stay on the train when it pulls into Venezia-Mestre as this is the industrial suburb of Mestre.

Most trains will continue on from Mestre, across the causeway over the lagoon, and into Venice proper and the Venezia-Santa Lucia train station. Some high speed trains skimming past Venice will only stop at Mestre. Don't worry though as there are trains about every 10 to 15 minutes making the short trip from Mestre to Venezia-Santa Lucia railway station.

Venice

show route and directions
A markerVenice Lagoon -
Laguna Veneta, Città Metropolitana di Venezia, Italy
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Location of the Venetian Islands

B markerVenice Marco Polo Airport -
Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), Via Galileo Galilei, 30/1, 30173 Tessera, Venezia VE, Italy
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C markerVenice Santa Lucia Train Station -
Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, 30121 Venezia, Italy
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D markerPiazzale Roma Venice -
Piazzale Roma, 30100 Venezia, Italy
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E markerLido di Venezia -
Lido di Venezia, Italy
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View of Venice from an Airplane
View of Venice from an Airplane | Source

Travel Goals

How Would You Like to Travel to Venice

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View of St Mark's Belltower
View of St Mark's Belltower | Source

How to Travel Around Venice

Your journey over the water to the islands of Venice can, if you wish, begin at the airport. There is a water bus (vaporetto) service from the airport. The vaporetto service is easy to navigate and there are plans of the routes at each stop. A day pass can be purchased allowing travellers to choose where to go and explore.

The best way to get about is on the water buses or Vaporetti, as they are efficient and economical. By the waterside in front of Santa Lucia railway station there is a water bus stop with a ticket bureau. Plans and displays are available for passengers to organise their routes. Routes are given colour coded lines on a map so that the various stops and destinations are easy to follow. Other ticket machines are available at the main stops. If you would like to arrive in style directly to your destination by canal there is the water taxi service but these can be expensive. If there is a group of you, you could, of course, share the cost to make it worthwhile.

Many tourists love to take a trip by gondola. Travelling by gondola is the classic image of the romantic Venetian holiday. These flat bottomed Venetian rowing boats are steered, using a pole, by gondoliers usually wearing the classic striped tops. These can be booked at various moorings along the canals. Some are shared and costs can vary, upwards from 40 euros.

Things to Pack in Summer

For the daytime
For Nighttime
For all time
Sunscreen
A shawl/pashmina or light pullover
A water flask
Light clothing
Something sparkly
A phrase book
Comfortable shoes
Smart casual clothes
A camera
View of a Gondola
View of a Gondola | Source

Things to Do in Venice

There are so many places to see and Venice has many interesting layers. The place most people want to visit is St Mark's Square or Piazza San Marco. It has its own stop on the Water Bus/Vaporetto route - San Marco. It is a very stylish location and large enough to accommodate the tourists, taking in its breathtaking views of the Basilica of St Mark, the belltower, the Doge's Palace and the medieval clocktower. There can be queues to visit the Basilica and a small fee is charged to see the reliquary of St Mark the Evangelist himself. The Doge's Palace nearby houses exhibitions. By the clocktower is a church where classical concerts can be held and it was one of the places where the composer Antonio Vivaldi held his concerts. Under the clocktower a passageway leads to small boutique style shops and restaurants.

On the Canal by the stop of San Zaccaria, the church of Santa Maria of the Pieta can be viewed from the Canal or in close up. Beyond it is the building which was the famous orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi taught and performed with his students. Part of it is now a hotel but there are frequent musical recitals in the church. Tickets can be bought from there on enquiry.

The Grand Canal through the main part of the city is part of the water bus experience and travellers can choose where they would like to visit using a travel pass. Many of the large buildings host exhibitions and there are posters/flags to display this. Most of all, the whole lagoon can be experienced by water bus and suitable types of transport from gondolas to speedboats frequent the different areas. There are many canalside cafes and restaurants to choose from. Many popular large stores have branches in Venice particularly near to the main touristic parts around San Marco.

The island of Giudecca was an area of some large palaces, working class housing and churches. It had some industrial areas which went into decline but it is more recently regarded as a quiet residential area with some chic apartments and exclusive houses.

For those who also want to combine relaxation with their sightseeing there are beaches within easy reach. The largest of the Venetian islands is the Lido which is famous for its stylish beach life and hotels. Still on the water bus route is the fishing village of Chioggia at the south side of the lagoon with its own inlets and canals making it a sort of 'Little Venice". The northernmost part of the travel routes in the Lagoon will take tourists to the Lido di Jesolo which is very popular for beach holidays.

However you choose to visit, Venice is a multi dimensional destination which people want to return to, again and again, to appreciate its remarkable photogenic beauty and romantic atmosphere.

View from the Venetian lagoon
View from the Venetian lagoon | Source

Video Tour of Venice

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  • Mariaelizabeth profile image
    Author

    Maria Elizabeth 5 months ago from Cheshire/Greater Manchester, UK

    Thanks so much Adele. It's a fascinating city and a lot of work goes into its preservation, as you rightly point out. In real life I believe there are various rules for travel on the waterways.

  • adelebarattelli profile image

    Adele Barattelli 5 months ago from Rome Italy

    Really entertaining article, worth remembering Unesco’s views on it being an endangered city. I voted to arrive like James Bond 007 style!.