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Seeing Venice by Boat: More than Just Gondolas

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Venice, Italy is a city made to be enjoyed on the water.  Boats of all sizes — from small fishing boats, to gondolas, to massive cruise liners — pass through the Venetian waterways each day. Venice by boat is more than just a way to get around though, it is a perfect way to see the city for kids.

Walking is easily the best way to get around Venice to see beyond the main tourist attractions. In fact, getting lost in the many little streets is one of the best ways to explore the city.  But Venice by boat allows visitors to experience the city with a unique perspective, and for kids is a perfect solution for tired walking feet that may be less adventurous and more cranky.

Three Ways to See Venice By Boat

Taking a Vaporetto Tour

Taking a Vaporetto ride is a great way to see Venice with kids.

Taking a vaporetto ride is a great way to see Venice with kids.

More than just a way to get around, this bus-like boat can give families a tour of the city without having to do any walking. The best itinerary to see the Grand Canal is to take the vaporetto (Linea 1) from the train station all the way to the island of Lido. This route takes you under the Rialto bridge, past historic buildings, under the Accademia bridge and past San Marco.

Another good itinerary is to take Linea 4.1 or 4.2 to Murano, the island that is famous for glass blowing.  Our favorite ride was to take a series of vaporetti to get from Lido to Burano, and island that is speckled with colored buildings and is known for making lace. Although it is a longer ride, this small island is picturesque and allows children extra space to run without as many crowds and tourists.

Gondolas in Venice

Taking a gondola in Venice is one of the most iconic things in this water city.  Gondolas in Venice, with a Venetian gondolier, take visitors through some of the main smaller canals around San Marco. As an Italian that does not like to do “touristy” things, I was against taking a gondola ride both for the expense and the fact that they are such a predictable tourist attraction, but that did not stop my daughter from trying to convince us (every day) to take one.

Gondola rides are about 40 minutes long and the prices are usually non-negotiable (about $100 or €80).  The ride can be very romantic, and because of the slow pace, can be ideal for photographers wishing to capture images of Venice from the water. Kids will likely enjoy it as well, though depending on the age, 40 minutes can be a long time.

Taking a Traghetto across the Grand Canal

Venice- Taking the Traghetto

The traghetto that crosses the Grand Canal in Venice is much less expensive than taking a gondola.

A traghetto is a just like a gondola, except that in many cases the boat itself has been retired from service. The traghetto at Santa Sofia, halfway between the Accademia and Rialto bridge, is used to ferry people across the Grand Canal but can be a much less expensive alternative for families that are looking to get the gondola experience.

After much debate and possibly some bribery of the gelato sort, we took the traghetto with my daughter instead of the traditional gondola.  For about $1, the traghetto ride is quick as it simply crosses from one side to another, but still offers that unique perspective that makes you feel like you are in the Grand Canal.

The traghetto is driven by gondoliers, wearing the same uniforms as the gondoliers in the more expensive gondolas, but at that price, families can go back and forth across the canal making their children very happy. If my daughter was any indication, she asked to go again, and never again asked for the longer gondola ride.

Whether you are taking gondolas in Venice, or opting for vaporetto or traghetto rides, Venice from the water is a must see for families.

If you’re looking for a wonderful place to stay, look into Hilton Molino Stucky Venice on Giudecca Island, which also offers a complimentary shuttle boat to St. Mark’s Square.

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Our Hilton Mom Voyage team members live throughout the U.S. and have traveled by air and car all over the world with their families!

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