Ponte di Rialto was the only bridge across the
Grand Canal in Venice. Even now, there are only four bridges along the canal's
2.5-mile (3.5 km) length. If you need to cross the canal and you aren't near a
bridge, you have two choices:
vaporetto, which zig-zags from one bank
to the other as it follows the Grand Canal, or better yet:
Head for the nearest
traghetto pier and get rowed to the other side. As a tourist,
you'll be expected to pay €2,-- (nearly three times the residents'
rate of 70 cents).
(plural: traghetti) means "ferry" in Italian. On Venice's Grand Canal,
traghetti are the passenger boats that cross the canal at seven points between
the railroad station and
St. Mark's Basin.
A traghetto, also called a gondola parada,
carries up to 10 passengers (compared to five for a privately-hired
gondola da nolo). The boats eschew bow decoration, brocaded chairs, and other luxury
trimmings. They are rowed by two oarsmen: one who stands behind the passengers
like a traditional gondolier, the other closer to the bow.
Most traghetti have been operated by the same families for
generations. As recently as the 1950s, there were some 30 of these gondola ferry
routes. Today, there are just over half a dozen official routes, although you'll be lucky if you find
more than two, three, or four operating at any given time. Two of the most reliable
Pescaria (Rialto fish market) -
Santa Sofia (near Ca' d'Oro):
San Tomà - Sant'Angelo:
Two other routes are convenient and operate with some
Giglio, from the gondola station by the Gritti Palace Hotel
to Calle Lanza in Dorsoduro (near the Salute Church)
Dogana, from a pier near the tip of Dorsoduro to San Marco
Other official routes are still marked on maps, but service
can range from sporadic to non-existent:
Fondamente S. Lucia (in front of the railroad station) -
Fondamenta San Simeón Piccolo
San Marcuola - Fóndaco dei Turchi (by the Natural History
Riva del Carbòn - Fondamente del Vin
San Samuele - Ca' Rezzónico
Note: Traghetto routes are clearly marked on
some Venice street maps (look for straight lines across the Grand Canal), and you'll often
see signs on buildings pointing toward the traghetto landings when you're walking
through neighborhoods along the Grand Canal.
How to ride a traghetto
ABOVE: A sign at a traghetto pier shows the
traghetti's two-tiered pricing scheme.
Follow the "Traghetto" signs to the
nearest landing, which will be a small wooden pier along the edge of the
Grand Canal. Boats normally shuttle back and forth almost continuously, so
you shouldn't have to wait long if the service is running.
When the traghetto arrives from the other side of the canal, board the
boat and find a place to sit or stand. Face backward, because the boat will
turn as it leaves the dock. (Venetians traditionally stand during the
crossing, but you're welcome to use a seat or perch on the gunwales, and an
oarsman may gesture for you to sit down if his last batch of tourists
toppled into the canal.)
Hand your fare to the oarsman as you board or leave the boat. If you
don't have exact change, try to pay with coins instead of banknotes.
Other practical advice
Don't try to board a traghetto in a wheelchair, with a baby carriage, or
with heavy luggage. Instead, use the No. 1 vaporetto, which has a flat deck
and is fully accessible.
Hours of traghetto service are unpredictable at best. When they're
operating, the boats are usually rowed back and forth across the Grand Canal from
early in the morning until 7 or 8 p.m., or possibly a bit later in the
summer (sometimes with a break for lunch).
If you arrive at a traghetto platform and no boat is in sight, just
do as the Venetians do and either take the vaporetto or save money by
walking to the nearest bridge across the Grand Canal. (The vaporetto option
makes the most sense when you have a one- to seven-day
ACTV Travel Pass, which allows
unlimited use of public water buses during the period of validity.)
Traghetto Santa Sofia:
Traghetto at the Venice Fish Market:
ABOVE: The Giglio traghetto runs between a gondola station on
the Campo del Traghetto in San Marco to Calle Lanza in Dorsoduro, not far from
the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
ABOVE: A printed timetable shows operating hours for the Giglio
ABOVE: The Traghetto Santa Sofia operates between the Campo
Santa Sofia in Cannaregio and the Pescheria, or Fish Market, on the opposite
bank of the Grand Canal.
ABOVE: Sandwich signs along major pedestrian routes often
identify traghetto routes that are operating. (This one points to the Traghetto
San Tomà, which is next to the San Tomà vaporetto stop.)
About the author:
Durant Imboden has
written about Venice, Italy since 1996.
He covered Venice and European travel at About.com for 4-1/2 years before launching
Europe for Visitors (including
Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl
Imboden in 2001.
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MAP CREDITS: Walking maps by
Anders Imboden, using base data from the
Comune di Venezia and Regione Veneto under license
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