Most nonstop flights between North America and Italy serve Rome and Milan, where connections to Venice are available, though the airport in Venice also now accommodates some nonstop flights from the U.S. International flights land at Milan’s Malpensa airport, so make sure a connecting flight to Venice also leaves from there rather than Linate, Milan’s other airport. It’s also easy, and often more convenient, to connect to Venice via other European hubs, such as Paris or Amsterdam.
Flying time to Milan, Rome, or Venice is approximately 8–8½ hours from New York, 10–11 hours from Chicago, and 11½ hours from Los Angeles. Flight time from Rome or Milan to Venice is about an hour.
Labor strikes are not as frequent in Italy as they were some years ago, but when they do occur they can affect not only air travel, but also local public transit that serves airports. Your airline will have usually have details about strikes affecting its flight schedules.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration. The agency has answers for almost every security question that might come up. www.tsa.gov.
A helpful website for information (location, phone numbers, local transportation, etc.) about all of the airports in Italy is www.italianairportguide.com.
Venice is served by Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo (VCE). The airport is small but well equipped with restaurants, snack bars, shopping, and Wi-Fi access.
Aeroporto di Venezia (6 km (4 miles) north of Venice. 041/2609260. www.veniceairport.com.)
Alitalia (800/223–5730 in U.S.; 892/010 in Italy; 06/65640 Rome office. www.alitalia.it.)
British Airways (800/247–9297 in U.S.; 02/69633602 in Italy. www.britishairways.com.)
Delta Air Lines (888/750–3284 for international reservations; 02/38591451 in Italy. www.delta.com.)
EasyJet (+44330/3655454 from outside U.K.; 199/201840 in Italy; 0330/3655000 from inside U.K. www.easyjet.com.)
Ryanair (0871/2460000 in U.K., toll number; 895/8958989 in Italy, toll number. www.ryanair.com.)
Air One (091/2551047 outside Italy; 892/444 in Italy. www.flyairone.it.)
From Marco Polo terminal it's a mostly covered seven-minute walk to the dock where ferries depart for Venice's historic center. It’s quite possible, though, that your hotel will be nowhere near one of the ferry stops, so check in advance. Another option is a motoscafo (water taxi), which carries up to four people and four bags to the city center in a powerboat—with a base cost of €95 for the 25-minute trip. Each additional person over five people costs €10 extra.
Alilaguna. This company has regular, scheduled ferry service from predawn until nearly midnight. During most of the day there are two departures from the airport to Venice every hour, at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. Early-morning and evening departures are less frequent, but there is at least one per hour. The charge is €15, including bags, and it takes about 1½ hours to reach the landing near Piazza San Marco; some ferries also stop at Fondamente Nove, Murano, Lido, the Cannaregio Canal, and the Rialto. Slight reductions are possible if you book a round trip on line. 041/2401701. www.alilaguna.it.
Depending on your hotel’s location, the most convenient way to reach it may be by bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma and vaporetto from there.
ATVO. Buses run by ATVO make a quick (20 minute) and cheap (€6) trip from the airport to Piazzale Roma, from where you can get a vaporetto to the stop nearest your hotel. Tickets are sold from machines and at the airport ground transportation booth (open daily 9–7:30), and on the bus when tickets are otherwise unavailable. The public ACTV Bus #5 also runs to the Piazzale Roma in about the same time. Tickets (€6) are available at the airport ground transportation booth. A taxi to Piazzale Roma costs about €35. 0421/383672. www.atvo.it.
There are no cars in Venice, so plan to arrive by train or plane, or if you do drive, return your rental on the outskirts of the city as soon as you arrive. Several rental agencies have outlets in Piazzale Roma, the terminus of road access to Venice.
Driving to Venice
Venice is at the end of SR11, just off the east–west A4 autostrada. If for some reason you choose to keep a car while visiting Venice, you will have to park in one of the garages on the outskirts of the city around Piazzale Roma or on the island of Tronchetto.
Parking in Venice
A warning: don't be waylaid by illegal touts, often wearing fake uniforms, who try to flag you down and offer to arrange parking and hotels; use one of the established garages. Consider reserving a space in advance. The Autorimessa Comunale (041/2727211 www.asmvenezia.it) costs €24 for 24 hours. The Garage San Marco (041/5232213 www.garagesanmarco.it) costs €24 for up to 12 hours and €30 for 12 to 24 hours with online reservations. On its own island, Isola del Tronchetto (041/5207555) charges €21 for 6 to 24 hours. Watch for signs coming over the bridge—you turn right just before Piazzale Roma. Many hotels and the casino have guest discounts with San Marco or Tronchetto garages. A cheaper, and perfectly convenient, alternative is to park in Mestre, on the mainland, and take a train (10 minutes, €1) or bus into Venice. The garage across from the station and the Bus 2 stop costs €8–€10 for 24 hours.
Hiring a gondola is fun but not a practical way to get around. The price of a 40-minute ride is €80 for up to six passengers, increasing to €100 between 7:30 pm and 8 am. Agree on cost and duration of the ride beforehand.
Traghettos are gondolas that cross the Grand Canal at strategic points along the waterway. A one-stop traghetto crossing takes just a few minutes—it’s customary to stand—and can be a lot more convenient than using one of the few bridges over the waterway. It's €2 for tourists, and cheaper for Venice residents.
Venice has rail connections with many major cities in Italy and Europe. Note that Venice's train station is Venezia Santa Lucia, not to be confused with Venezia-Mestre, which is the mainland stop prior to arriving in the city. Some trains do not continue beyond the Mestre station; in such cases you can catch the next Venice-bound train. Get a €1 ticket from the newsstand on the platform and validate it (in the yellow time-stamp machine) to avoid a fine.
Traveling by train in Italy is simple and efficient. Service between major cities is frequent, and trains usually arrive on schedule. The fastest trains on the Trenitalia Ferrovie dello Stato (FS)—the Italian State Railways—are Freccie Rosse Alta Velocità. Ferrari mogul Montezemolo launched the competing Italo high-speed service in 2012. Bullet trains on both services run between all major cities from Venice, Milan, and Turin down through Florence and Rome to Naples and Salerno. Seat reservations are mandatory, and you'll be assigned a specific seat; to avoid having to squeeze through narrow aisles, board only at your designated coach (the number on your ticket matches the one near the door of each coach). Reservations are also required for Eurostar and the slower Intercity (IC) trains; tickets for the latter are about half the price of the faster trains. If you miss your reserved train, go to the ticket counter within the hour and you may be able to move your reservation to a later one (this depends on the type of reservation, so check rules when booking). Note that you'll still need to reserve seats in advance if you're using a rail pass.
There are often significant discounts when you book well in advance. On the websites, you’ll be presented with available promotional fares, such a Trenitalia’s "Mini" (up to 60% off), "Famiglia" (a 20% discount for one adult and at least one child), and "A/R" (a round-trip in a day). Italo offers "Low Cost" and "Economy." The caveat is that the discounts come with restrictions on changes and cancellations; make sure you understand them before booking.
Reservations are not available on Interregionale trains, which are slower, make more stops, and are less expensive than high-speed and Intercity trains. Regionale and Espresso trains stop most frequently and are the most economical (many serve commuters). There are refreshments on long-distance trains, purchased from a mobile cart or a dining car, but not on the commuter trains.
All but commuter trains have first and second classes. On local trains a first-class fare ensures you a little more space; on long-distance trains you also get wider seats (three across as opposed to four) and a bit more legroom, but the difference is minimal. At peak travel times a first-class fare may be worth the additional cost, as the coaches may be less crowded. In Italian, prima classe is first class; seconda classe is second.
Many cities have more than one train station, so be sure you get off at the right station. In Venice, it is important to note that the Venezia-Mestre station is not in Venice itself but is the stop for the mainland industrial city across the lagoon. You can purchase train tickets and review schedules online, at travel agencies, at train station ticket counters, and at automatic ticketing machines located in all but the smallest stations. If you'd like to board a train and don't have a ticket, seek out the conductor prior to getting on; he or she will tell you whether you may buy a ticket onboard and what the surcharge will be (usually €8). Fines for attempting to ride a train without a ticket are €50 plus the price of the ticket.
For trains without a reservation you must validate your ticket before boarding by punching it at wall- or pillar-mounted yellow or green boxes in train stations or at the track entrances of larger stations. If you forget, find a conductor immediately to avoid a hefty fine.
Train strikes of various kinds are not uncommon, so it's wise to ensure that your train is actually running. During a strike minimum service is guaranteed (especially for distance trains); ask at the station or search online to find out about your particular reservation.
Traveling by night can be a good deal—and somewhat of an adventure—because you'll pass a night without having to have a hotel room. Comfortable trains run on the longer routes (Sicily–Rome, Sicily–Milan, Rome–Turin, Lecce–Milan); request the good-value T3 (three single beds), Intercity Notte, and Carrozza Comfort. The Vagone Letto has private bathrooms and single-, double-, or twin-bed suites. Overnight trains also travel to international destinations like Paris, Vienna, Munich, and other cities.
FS-Trenitalia (06/68475475 from outside Italy (English); 892021 inside Italy. www.trenitalia.com.)
Rail passes promise savings on train travel. Italy is one of 24 countries that accept the Eurail Pass, which provides unlimited first- and second-class travel. If you plan to rack up miles across the Continent, get a Global Eurail Pass (covering all participating nations). The Eurail Select Pass allows for travel in three to five contiguous countries. Other options are the Eurail Youth Pass (for those under 26), the Eurail Flexipass (valid for a certain number of travel days within a set period), and the Eurail Saver (aimed at two to five people traveling together).
The Eurail Italy Pass, available for non-European residents, allows a certain number of travel days within the country over the course of two months. Three to 10 days of travel cost from $295 to $539 (1st class) or $240 to $439 (2nd class). If you're in a group of more than three, consider the Eurail Italy Pass Saver : good for 3 to 10 travel days, the price per person is $251 to $459 (1st class) or $205 to $374 (2nd class); family passes offer further discounts for children under 12; kids under 4 travel free. Eurail Italy Youth (for those under 26) is second-class only and costs from $195 to $357 for one to 10 days of travel. All passes must be purchased before you leave for Europe. Keep in mind that even with a rail pass you still need to reserve seats on the trains that require them.
Attractive as a pass may seem, compare prices with actual fares to determine whether it will actually pay off; you may have to do a great deal of train traveling to make a pass worthwhile. Generally, the more often you plan to travel long distances on high-speed trains, the more sense a rail pass makes. You can calculate how much you will be spending on individual tickets by using the Trenitalia website.
Italia Rail (877/375–7245 in U.S. www.italiarail.com.)
Rail Europe (800/622–8600 in U.S. www.raileurope.com.)
Venice's primary public transportation is the vaporetto (water bus). The ACTV operates vaporetti (water buses) on routes throughout the city. Departures are quite frequent; during the day, for example, Line 1 from Piazzale Roma along the Grand Canal to the Lido, departs every 10 minutes. The trip from Ferrovia to San Marco takes about 35 minutes. Most other lines depart frequently as well, at least every 20 minutes. During times of heavy traffic, ACTV sometimes puts on extra vaporetti, so that departures are even more frequent. Beginning at about 11:30 pm there's limited, but fairly frequent, night service. Although most landings are well marked, the system takes some getting used to; check before boarding to make sure the boat is going in your desired direction.
There are seats reserved for pregnant, elderly, and disabled passengers, and other passengers are expected to surrender such seats if requested.
Individual tickets are €7 and are good for 60 minutes one way. Considerable savings are possible if you buy a pass: €18 for 12 hours, €20 for 24 hours, €35 for 72 hours, and €50 for a week of unlimited travel. Travelers ages 14–29 can opt for the €4 Rolling Venice card (available from the HelloVenezia booth at principal vaporetto stops), which allows 72 hours of travel for €18. A ticket to take the vaporetto one stop across the Grand Canal is €4. Tickets are available at the airport, from tobacco shops, and from machines or booths at some, but not all, vaporetto stops. Tickets are checked frequently, and fines for using the vaporetto without a ticket are substantial.
ACTV. The ACTV operates the land and water bus service in Venice. A single tourist ticket valid for 60 minutes costs €7, but there are also one-, two-, and three-day tickets plus a one-week ticket available, which represent considerable savings if you plan to move frequently around the city by public transportation. Water buses run 24 hours in Venice, because there are parts of the city that are accessible only by water. Service is quite frequent during the day. Routes and schedules are available on the ACTV website, or at individual vaporetto stations. Tickets are available at main vaporetto stops, at tobacconists, and at some newspapaer kisosks. The tickets are valid on both the vaporetti in Venice and on the bus lines to Mestre and on the Lido. Controls are frequent and fines for traveling without a valid ticket are steep.If you plan an extended stay in Venice, or plan to make several trips, and have a local address (not a hotel or B&B), you can apply for a Carta Venezia (€50) valid for several years, which will give you substantially reduced rates on public transportation. 041/2424. www.actv.it.