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Venice's Boats

Home > Venice > Tours | Romantic | Outdoor | Boating
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published November 1st 2016
Venice, a city of dreams, a city built on stilts, relies on its waterways for transport and leisure needs. Getting around Venice means using some kind of boat. The famous starting point is of course the romantic gondola. Elaborate, sumptuous, kitsch gondolas line the canals at strategic points around the city.

gondola, venice
Tourist gondola

Expect to pay in the region of 80 Euros for half an hour; this is not a cheap treat, but it is a lovely thing to do. Romantically gliding through the canals, under the bridges, sat on a throne in a gondola is a magical experience. If you are tired of sightseeing by foot, or just looking for a way to get to some of the more unusual haunts, a gondola trip is brilliant.

gondola, venice

The gondoliers are highly trained to guide the gondolas smoothly through the waterways without crashing or otherwise causing problems. They know each other - it's a select band of men, and will greet each other as you cruise, and as they croon.

gondolier, venice
Gondolier in action

The guides will take their cue from you. If you want history, then they are extremely knowledgeable and will talk to you about the places you see. A few tall tales are likely to creep in, but that's half the fun too. If you want quiet, say so, and they'll leave you to enjoy your ride in peace.

gondola, venice
Sightseeing by gondola

There are lots of places around Venice where you can pick up a gondola. The Grand Canal is obviously the most popular place, and so you might find queues. Have a look through some of the back canals and you will wait much less, and they're bound to take you onto the Grand Canal as part of the tour anyway.

gondola, venice
Gondolas for hire

Once a gondola has outlived its service, what then? A bookshop like Libreria Aqua Alta has the answer - use one to store books. These elegant craft have more uses than just cruising the waterways.

gondola, books
Books in a boat

In a city with no roads and no cars, boats have a practical role to play too, however amusing that might seem to tourists.

venice, ambulance
Water ambulance

From the official city business to daily life, even major companies have to adjust to working on water.

dhl, venice, gondola
DHL on water

A water-bus (vaporetto) system also runs around Venice. These are much larger boats so they can only operate around the city edges or along the Grand Canal. They are useful for visiting the islands, and a trip along the length of the Grand Canal is a staple part of a tourist's itinerary. Look out for the frequent yellow stopping points. Timetables are available here. You can buy individual tickets from 8 Euros, or a pass which gives you general use of the vaporetti for a specific period of time (e.g. 24 or 72 hours).

water, taxi, canal, venice
Vaporetto on the Grand Canal

Getting across Venice, quite frankly, is quicker on foot, but sometimes time is not the issue, and a gentle cruise around the city is enjoyable in its own right. If you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, particularly to the airport, then you can hire a private water-taxi, but in general the frequent public services should be good enough.

shoreline, burano
Boats on the Burano shore

If you do head out to the islands, then boats of other kinds start coming into view. Alongside the gondolas are rowing boats, fishing boats, and the other boats which mark out island life. Moving on water in and around Venice is necessary, but also wonderful.
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When: daytime
Where: Venice canals
Cost: depends on the number, time, season, but expect to pay around 80 euros for two people for half an hour in a gondola, with vaporretto tickets starting at 8 euros
Your Comment
This has always been on my to-do list! So romantic and different - great article!
by Chloe Doyle (score: 3|1472) 2339 days ago
It's been years since I last visited Venice, but these pictures bring back so many memories! Great article.
by Sightseeingsuz (score: 1|73) 2338 days ago
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