It’s that time of year again for planning summer vacations. Here are a few updates on your Visit Venice Agenda.
Get ready for larger crowds, book your hotel early as well as flights and trains. Cruise Ships are in port daily making more tourist on the streets.
Venice is one of the locations of and an estimated 20 million tourists will arrive first in Milano and journey to Venice as well. The expo site for Venice opens 5 May 2015 in the small city of Maghera, just before the causeway to Venice. Maghera is better known for is canteriere, ship building facilities where so many of the cruise ships are constructed and unremarkable otherwise, except for a Saturday flea market and a huge shopping mall that opened last year.
You may buy tickets to Expo2015 for Milano at the tourist information just outside the train station in Venice – but for the Expo in Marghera, you need to buy at the Expo. The same ticket does not work. Why Venice tourist can’t sell the tickets is a mystery to everyone.
I am sorry to say that if you are visiting for the first time in 2015 be prepared that everywhere you turn, there is refurbishment or construction. The giant cranes and draped building will ruin all your best pictures. If only we could view this as a positive sign of the Italian economy it would be a welcome sight. The Rialto, is getting reconstruction compliments of Diesel, the work goes on behind the screen. Behind the bridge is the construction of the new shopping mall by Benetton in the former Post Office (formerly Fontego dei Tedeschi). It is already fully rented with every high end Italian retailer you would ever want to see, even though it won’t be ready until next year. Sadly little space is left for the Venetians.
Expect lines and waits at the vaporetto stops. There are electronic boards with time schedules at larger stops advising you of approaching boats and schedules. Download a vaporetto schedule before you go, so you have an idea of how long it will take you to get to your destination. Much work has been going on in the last 2 years to alleviate the congestion at the loading docks of the vaporetto. Along the Grand Canal, most stops will now have a loading platform for each direction. This was needed to keep the sanity of the locals who would miss boat after boat as tourist clogged the entrance trying to decide where the boat was going. The number of the boat will be visible along the side of the boat. The Stop (shown by the A, B, C, D, etc) matches a large letter on the side of the stop. The “Notes” will scroll the various stops along that route.
BIG HINT! Along the Grand Canal boats go in the direction of the pointed end! So just get your bearings on San Marco and Piazzale Roma and you will be ok. We are still getting used to the new second stop at San Marcuola which divides the traffic going up and down the canal and find ourselves by habit sitting in the old stop.
Getting to Venice
It comes as a surprise to many people when they land in Venice they are NOT in Venice. (I know it appears that way in the movies, thanks to Angelina Jolie, everyone thinks you step off the plane and into the lobby of the Danieli.)
Not True! There are 2 nearby airports. The main one is Tessera (Marco Polo), on the mainland, accessible by water using Alilaguna or Motoscafo (water taxi) and by land via bus and taxi. The other in a nearby city, Treviso, is home to European airlines like Wizz, Ryan, and more. If you come in on these, there are awaiting pullmans (bus) which connect to Piazzale Roma. Note that if you are on Ryan, you will need to have purchased the pass online through Ryan Air.
Otherwise you still have 2 options, Taxi and Public Bus.
From Marco Polo: Alilaguna and bus are the least expensive, each with their benefits. Alilaguna is the method Venetians choose (many have monthly passes as they keep their cars in the parking garage at the airport), there are several routes with appointed stops that they share with the ACTV (vaporetto) service. But you need to select the route closest to your destination. You can buy your ticket inside the airport or from the little office out by the water’s edge. This is about 250 meters from the airport.
Select your route carefully, use google maps to be sure you know where your hotel is located and that the route is nearest. With 600 bridges you won’t want to make a mistake that involves more bridges than absolutely necessary.
Bus to Piazzale Roma. The #5 cost and takes you on a bit of scenic tour through Mestre before you get to Piazzale Roma. But note that even once you arrive at Piazzale Roma, unless your hotel is near, you probably will still need to take a vaporetto to get near your hotel. Note the bus in the picture is a dedicated bus and requires a special ticket – not the one for the boats. One-way bus ticket from or to Marco Polo airport costs €6.00, a return ticket costs €11.00. A one-way #5 AeroBus (shuttle shown below) ticket costs €12.00 and includes waterbus service for 90 minutes from the moment of ticket validation which saves you having to get a boat pass just to get to your hotel.
Remember you are going to need a ticket to get on the bus or Alilaguna. At the airport the ticket machines are as shown here along with the bus. To go to the waterfront for either Alilaguna or the Taxi, you turn left when you go out the doors from the arrival hall.(I warn you this summer even the airport is under construction.)
Water Taxi (Motoscafo): can cost you upwards of 100 Euro (or maybe more depending on the hour you arrive). It does have it’s benefits as it can usually take you close to your hotel, usually knows the location of the hotels, but if you are going to an apartment, then you’d best have a map to show to the driver. And to get to the water taxi, you need to pull your luggage a couple hundred meters from the airport to the boat dock, though you can pay to have this done. The benefits are many: if you have a lot of luggage, children, not good at hauling bags over bridges, you might consider it well worth the expense. And it’s fast! You’ll be in the center of Venice in less than 20 minutes and have had a grand ride with scenic view of Murano and St. Michele and parts of Venice along the way. An altogether pleasant experience.
Where to Buy the Vaporetto Tickets
There is a welcome booth at Marco Polo Airport where they speak English and can help you (assuming you arrive when they are open). (See the layout of the airport above.) One you arrive in Venice the two main places are here in the ticket line in front of the train station. and the other at Piazzale Roma. The white building with the red roof has both bus tickets for the region and to the right you can buy vaporetto passes as well.
More popular stops, such as Piazzale Roma, Rialto and San Marco also have booths and many other machines. You can always buy the ticket on board from the same guy who opens and closes the gates.
1)Always keep a copy of your hotel or apartment rental with you, preferably with a phone number and clear address, closest boat stop and directions. Most people are willing to aid you, but most of us do not know hotel names. We do all know the boat stops, campo, and squares. Street names are not particularly useful – though many are well known. However, the locations are numbered within a sestiere by the way they were built or by the way the postman delivers the mail.
2)Vaporetto – the gates open on both side of the boat to accommodate stops along each bank of the canal. Locals use the vaporetto to shop, take their children to school, elderly to the doctor. Be courteous and move your luggage and step aside to let them on and off the vaporetto. The first group of seats inside the vaporetto is reserved for Disabled, Elderly, Pregnant and Mothers with small children.
Enjoy this very different life style and be courteous.