Navigating Venice’s Canals

Michael James O’Brien

The ins and outs of getting around the canals and the lagoon.


A ride is a must-do for Venice first-timers, but a standard trip can be disappointing—gondoliers are nothing if not jaded. A notable exception is Adriano Morasco (39-340/330-3588), who speaks English well and is full of insider knowledge. Then there’s Alexandra Hai (, a plucky German and one of the only two women allowed to paddle a gondola. Gondoliers pretend to haggle, but tariffs are fixed: $105 for 40 minutes, $55 for each additional 20.


Venice’s vaporetti are ultradependable and used by everyone from carpenters to contesse. A ride on the 1 or 2 ACTV line can even make for a lovely Grand Canal tour on the cheap—a single ticket, good for 60 minutes, is $9—particularly for those who grab the alfresco seats up front.

Water Taxis

The only way to cover long distances quickly, especially across the lagoon to the islands or the airport. The drivers of Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia (39-041/522-2303; are best for airport transfers, while within the city one of the most sought after is Davide Scarpa (39-347/858-5286). And Claudio Cecchini, Filippo Toso, Nicola Scarpa, Sebastiano Honl and Sebastiano Simionato (39-346/678-7648) form a mini-cooperativa of molto simpatici water-taxi pilots. Direct booking is key: Going through a hotel ups the rate as much as 10 percent.

In the Know

“The Fondazione Giorgio Cini, in a former Benedictine convent, has the most remarkable replica of Veronese’s Nozze di Cana, the largest canvas at the Louvre. The original was looted by Napoléon.” —Bianca Arrivabene, consultant to Christie’s Italy