Looking for a cheap (if quick) gondola ride? Take a
traghetto across the Grand Canal.
By Durant Imboden
ABOVE: A traghetto ferries passengers across the
Grand Canal. INSET BELOW: A Venetian mother and her daughter (wearing inline
skates) wait to board.
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 resident rate of 70
cents), but there is a workaround for frequent visitors: See our
"money-saving tip" below.
(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. The boats are
large gondolas without 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 officially seven, although you'll be lucky if you find
one or two operating at any given time. Two of the most reliable
Pescaria (Rialto fish market) -
Santa Sofia (near Ca' d'Oro):
San Tomà - Sant'Angelo:
Other official routes
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
Campo del Traghetto - Calle Lanza (near the Salute Church)
(Please note that these additional routes
may operate sporadically--if at all--and you shouldn't waste much time looking for them when the
Pescaria - Santa Sofia and San Tomà - Sant' Angelo traghetti
are so much more consistent.)
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.
ABOVE: A sign at a traghetto pier shows the
two-tiered pricing scheme that went into effect in 2013.
How to ride a traghetto
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.
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.
Traghetto Santa Sofia:
Traghetto at the Venice Fish Market:
MAP CREDITS: Walking maps by
Anders Imboden, using base data from the
Comune di Venezia and Regione Veneto under license
The premier travel-planning site
for Venice, Italy since 1997