Getting around Venice is simple if you understand the basics.  There is a very efficient transport system in place, or take pleasure in walking in and getting lost in Venice.  You can’t go too wrong, as you are either going to hit a dead end or water. Just look at the nearest water bus stop to see exactly where you are.

Venice sits in a big lagoon, dotted with islands and cut off from the sea by some long islands and the new water barrier system. It resembles two fish about to eat each other or two hands grasping, with a small island along the bottom, called Guidecca.  The Grand Canal curves through the center of Venice, and splits the island in two, with 4 bridges that crossing it.  There is also a big canal that runs between Venice and Guidecca, which is well worth seeing by boat.

When visiting Venice, you will either stay on the island itself, or maybe in nearby Mestre.  It is easy enough to get from Mestre to Venice with just a short land-bus ride, or on the new T1 tram line (depending on your hotel location).

All transport from the mainland comes into either the train station (ie airport link), or the main transport hub of Piazza Roma.  From Roma, you can walk into Venice, or catch the ACTV water bus.


You cannot buy tickets on public transport.  These can be purchased from Tabacci shops, some hotel receptions, or at water bus stops themselves.  You must validate/swipe your ticket before getting on a waterbus, or punch once on a land bus.  Look at the machine or ticket, to make sure it registers. Failure to do this can result in fines at random check points.

The selection of passes and tickets, and prices are forever changing, so take the time to look at all offered before choosing what you need.  Some tickets are good for both land and water buses. Ask for a map of the ACTV system.

If you are buying tickets from a booth in Venice, I recommend you stand back and read the different selections available, before going to purchase.  Have your money ready and try to complete the transaction quickly.

Transport runs all night with reduced hours.

Land bus between Mestre & Venice


Any Mestre hotel will have information about how to take the land bus to Venice.  They often sell land bus tickets too.  when the bus comes, watch what the locals do to see which door they use to get on.  You can often get on through any door and once aboard, it is up to you to get to one of the boxes to punch your ticket. Most journeys should take 10-20 minutes.

If you are going to P Roma, the bus will cross the long bridge that joins Venice with the mainland. Take a look out at the lagoon.  It can be a hive of activity with boats bringing things in and out, and people fishing or practising for the regattas. It is not very deep in most spots, and the dug out bits (roads) are outlined by the tree stumps you will see sticking out of the water.

You will see big cruise ships docked at Trochetto car park off to the right, which is the big parking lot for cars and tour buses.  If you are on a tour, your coach might bring you into Tronchetto, where you will catch a private motoscaffi (rented boat for groups). You can also catch the water bus there. You can not catch public land buses here.  You cannot walk back to Mestre safely.  You can walk from Tronchetto to P Roma, or take the people mover monorail put in place for the cruise ships.

The only bus stop will be P Roma.  You will come back here to catch your land bus back to the mainland.

Vaporetto ACTV waterbus system


Vaporettos dock at pontoon bus stops all along the waterfront.  They are large boats with a covered seating and an open area.  (Do not confuse these with private water taxis with their polished wood and shiny glass).  Buy your ticket or pass at the booth and validate it on the dock. Day passes only need to be validated once.  The boat numbers and arrivals are listed on the signboards, as well as on the side of the vaporettos.

If you can, move to the front of the pontoon stop and brace yourself.  When the vaporetto arrives, it will bump into the pontoon.  Wait for the arrivals to get off and kind of politely get past everyone first if you can. Then try to move towards the far rail in the outside area, or if there are outside seats on the front of the boat, just hang around the area and it will eventually empty.  It is much nicer to be outside and against the rail if you can.


Normally #1 is the main boat around Venice and #2 is the fast boat. If you have time, take the #1 for a sightseeing tour down the Grand Canal & around the entire island.  You will need a pass for this and it takes one and a half hours to complete. A single ticket is only good for one hour and they will fine you.

Walking through Venice


Venice is made up of 118 islands and 50 canals, which were individual communities, with a well and drainage system, a church and homes.  They were constructed on tree trunks driven into the clay and water. They were eventually joined by 400 bridges.

ACTV passes are expensive and limiting.  If you have the time and physical ability, I highly advise walking.  From where the bus drops you off, walk in the long way and then return the quick way, or vice versa.  It is the only way to truly experience the magic of this wonderful place.

To find your way around, look for signs, over your head, painted or posted on the sides of buildings. These are random and if you go the wrong way, you will find a dead end or water, so just retrace your footsteps and look again.  Another way around is to ask for a business card from the nearest cafe or hotel, and they will normally have a map on them; or locate a water bus stop and compare the name to your tourist map.

How to get from Piazzale Roma to St Mark’s Square.  

The long way (40-60 mins, lovely walk)  From P. Roma locate the grand canal. You want it to be on your left. Walk along the canal front until you find signs for Rialto.  You will enter the side streets to your right and you want to keep going following signs.  You will eventually come to the market street, or possibly the fresh food market.  From there, follow right past the souvenir stalls and you will come to Rialto bridge.

Once across Rialto bridge you come into Campo St Bartolomeo, where you go right until you locate the sign to turn left to San Marco.  A ten minute walk will bring you into St Mark’s Square.



The less scenic but easier way

From Piazzale Rome to San Marco via Cannaregio

From P Roma, look for the modern pedestrian bridge at the end of it and cross over.

This will take you past Ferrovia (train station) and the grand canal should be on your right.  Just keep walking straight on along the wider straight pathway.  The signs will read San Marco and Rialto.  After about 20-30 minutes you will come directly into Campo St Bartolomeo.  You will see a statue of a man on a plinth.  Continue walking in the direction he is facing.  The stairs of Rialto bridge will emerge on your right, but if you carry on through the campo until you see the sign for San Marco off to the left, it’s ten minutes to the main square.