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This is Venetian romance at its best: exploring the canals in a gondola as the paddling gondolier sings 'O sole mio'. Even a gondola ride of less than an hour will easily set you back 100 euros. There are, however, other ways to admire the Doge's Palace and Rialto Bridge from the water without going bankrupt. Here are 3 budget-friendly alternatives to the infamous gondola ride.
For those who are set on taking a gondola ride, it is good to know that there is no point in negotiating the price. All gondoliers are members of the Gondoliers’ Association which determines set rates: a 40-minute gondola ride during the day costs 80 euros and at night 100 euros. You can only negotiate the length of the boat trip: pay less and you get a shorter gondola ride. The price will only drop significantly if you share: a gondola ride for 2 is very romantic of course, but each gondola seats 6 people and the price remains the same.
Elsewhere in Italy, a 'traghetto' refers to a large ferry but in Venice it’s a bit different. The busy Grand Canal separates the busiest neighbourhoods, and apart from the famous Ponte Rialto there are hardly any bridges. Instead of having to cross the Ponte Rialto, there are large gondolas (traghettos) – with paddling gondoliers – that ply back and forth between the two banks. There are 7 strategic spots where you can board a traghetto and each boat accommodates up to 12 passengers. The crossing takes just a few minutes and a one-way ticket costs only 2 euros.
In a city that is spread over 117 islands it makes sense that most public transportation uses the waterways. The ‘vaporetto’ or water bus will get you anywhere. Line 1 zigzags back and forth across the Grand Canal. Line 82 offers an express service along the same route. Other lines will take you to the surrounding islands, such as Burano, Murano and Lido. Vaporetti sail according to a fixed schedule, which is displayed at each stop and can be found atwww.actv.it
. A one-way ticket costs 7 euros; it is often cheaper to purchase a transport card for a day or a week.
You can also set out by yourself on the Venetian canals. At Giampietro Brussa (www.brussaisboat.it
), near the train station on Cannaregio, you can rent a ‘toppetta’ for 150 euros a day, including fuel. These traditional open boats are not luxurious, but they do have a Venetian license plate so they are permitted on the lagoon and on the Grand Canal. A boating licence is not required, but given the amount of boat traffic on the canals it would be dangerous to go out by yourself without any solid boating experience. The toppetti can also be rented with a skipper.