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ACTV boat types: vaporetto, motoscafo, motonave

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From: Venice ACTV Water Buses

No 1 vaporetto passenger compartment

ABOVE: The passenger cabin of a No. 1 vaporetto on the Grand Canal.

Venice's ACTV transit authority has four main categories of passenger boats. You'll encounter the first two types, vaporetti and motoscafi, on rides within the city center:


No 1 vaporetto under Rialto Bridge

The word "vaporetto" is often used to mean any kind of ACTV water bus, but officially, the term refers to flat-decked, single-level vessels such as the boats on Line 1 (Grand Canal to Lido) and Line 2 (Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal).

These vaporetti are fully accessible by wheelchairs, strollers, baby buggies, and wheeled luggage, and there are no steps between the entrance and the passenger cabin.

The boats also have large open spaces in the center, by the boarding area, where passengers can stand and enjoy the fresh air. A small open seating area is in the stern, behind the cabin.

On older vaporetti, seating is also available in the bow. (Bow seats have been eliminated on newer boats, since clueless passengers often stand up and and block the captains' view.)

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The average capacity of a vaporetto is 230 passengers. Some readers have asked if these standard vaporetti have toilets. The answer is "No."


ACTV motoscafo

Motoscafi are more streamlined and protected from the elements than vaporetti are, with fore and aft passenger cabins that are recessed in the hull.

They're used on routes such as the 4.1/4.2 and 5.1/5.2, which travel outside the sheltered waters of the Grand Canal, Giudecca Canal, and St. Mark's Basin.

In recent years, motoscafi have been redesigned with space for wheelchairs on the entrance decks. Steps lead down to the passenger cabins, where views are limited by the high, narrow windows.

The average capacity of a motoscafo is 160 passengers.

Motoscafi do not have toilets.

Motonave (single deck)

ACTV Linea LN motonave

On a handful of lines such as the Linea 12 route to Murano, Burano, and more distant points in the Venetian Lagoon, ACTV runs single-deck motonavi (motorships) that look like wide-bodied vaporetti.

The wheelchair-accessible boats have large twin-aisle cabins, a few open-air seats in the stern, and capacities of up to 600 passengers. Unlike conventional water buses, these larger boats have toilets, although the toilets weren't working the last time we checked because they didn't comply with new environmental regulations.

Alilaguna, a company that runs a scheduled airport-boat service between Marco Polo Airport and Venice, uses similar motonavi on some of its busier routes.

Motonave (double deck)

ACTV double-deck motonave

Double-decked motonavi operate between Venice S. Zaccaria Pietà (near the Piazza San Marco), the Lido, and commuter suburbs in the northern reaches of the Venetian Lagoon. The wheelchair-accessible ships can carry up to 1,200 passengers.

Note: All of the passenger boats shown above are operated by ACTV, and all use the same fares and tickets. (Different fares apply to ACTV car ferries.) The boats have Turkish-style squat toilets that have been shut down for pollution reasons until further notice.

Next page: Traveling by ACTV water bus

In this article:
Venice ACTV water buses (introduction)
ACTV boat types: vaporetto, motoscafo, motonave
Traveling by ACTV water bus
More waterbus tips and warnings

Also see:
Venice vaporetto routes
Venice vaporetto fares
Vaporetto Line 1 (Grand Canal)
Directory of ACTV and Alilaguna waterbus stops
How (and where) to buy vaporetto tickets
ACTV ticket machines
"Which Venice transportation pass do I need?"
ACTV 24-hour to 7-day travel passes
Venezia Unica Pass for tourists
Venezia Unica Pass for long-term visitors and residents

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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