Sightseeing

Gondolas4all: wheelchair-accessible gondola rides

ABOVE: This video from Gondolas4all shows how the service works. (If you'd like to donate to the nonprofit project, click the "Donate Today!" ad in the video.)

Venice is a more accessible city than you might guess, despite its more than 400 footbridges--nearly all with steps. If you plan your sightseeing carefully, you can explore much of the city center by wheelchair over level pavement, using the public vaporetti (water buses) to get from one accessible area to the next. (We cover the basics in our "Accessible Venice" article at Veniceforvisitors.com.)

Still, until recently, you were out of luck if you wanted to enjoy one classic Venice sightseeing experience in a wheelchair: taking a gondola ride. Gondolas4all, a project that launched in spring of 2016, has rendered that limitation obsolete with a wheelchair-friendly pier and gondola next to the Piazzale Roma on the edge of Venice's historic center.

The Gondolas4all pier has a mechanical lift that picks up your wheelchair, slides it horizontally over the gondola, and lowers the wheelchair into the boat. And that's it: Once the wheelchair is in the boat, you and your companions enjoy a standard gondola ride.

For more about Gondolas4all, including a booking form, visit:

www.gondolas4all.com

To see a first-person account of a gondola ride in an electric wheelchair with Gondolas4all with a video), go to:

Martyn Sibley: Gondolas4All in Venice


Where to find Gondolas4all:

The Gondolas4all pier is on the Fondamenta Cossetti, just south of the wheelchair-accessible Hotel Santa Chiara on the Rio Novo next to the Piazzale Roma.

Use the Google Map below to find it, and be sure to book your ride ahead of time. (Gondolas4All is in the rectangular notch on the left side of the canal below the words "Rio Novo." If you zoom in, you'll see "Gondolas4all" on the Google Maps 3D view.)


Venice in one day

Platform 1 - Venezia Mestre train station

ABOVE: From Venezia Mestre railroad station, it's only a 10- to 15-minute trip into Venice's historic center.er.

We'd never advocate spending only one day in Venice (we'd suggest a week to a month), but we'll concede that one day is better than none. If you're pressed for time, this e-mail that we received from Harri Vainio of Finland may be helpful:

"Because of your site we were able to squeeze in a day in Venice in our week-long visit to Garda. I know lots of folks say that Venice cannot be visited by car in a day, but with some planning and avoiding the risks, I think it is well worth the effort!
 
"For us the key was an early start to our 2-hour drive from Riva del Garda to avoid traffic in Autostrada around Verona. We pre-booked a parking space from ParkVia in Venice Mestre Station parking lot. The service personnel were there to greet us already before the gate, so no problems there and you don’t have to pay this service in advance online. We had a bit of trouble finding the place, but “next to Europcar” was a great advice we got.
 
"From here, we took a local train to Venice SL buying the tickets from the machines. This was really easy, and even if you select the train in the machines, the tickes are valid 60 minutes after punching them on the platform. So even if you miss the train, there is always a next one in 10-15 minutes or so.
 
"Arriving in Venice SL [Venezia Santa Lucia train station] and a quick snack at the railway station to avoid eating in San Marco area, we immediately took the  one-hour ride with Vaporetto nr.1 to Piazza San Marco to the other side of the city. I also had pre-booked a visit to cut the line at Basilica di San Marco from venetoinside.com at 1:05 – 1:15 PM entrance slot. I asked my hotel to print out the confirmation and the barcode, so this went really smooth. Only hassle was with the backpack I had, as I had to leave it to the deposit, which only takes care of the luggage for 1 hour (even if we tried to bargain for more time). But with our schedule, an hour at the Basilica was just fine at the end of the day.
 
"From here on it was an easy day of walking through the city back to railway station with visits to various sites including Rialto bridge to cross the main canal and stopping for pizza alices and macchiatos every once in a while. Arriving at Venice SL, we again bought the tickets to Venice Mestre with no problems and took the first train, as they all tend to stop at Mestre.
 
"Then, a quick set of burgers from McDonalds :) at Mestre Station and back to our car and 2 hours back to Garda.
 
"Sure, it was a tough day for two adults and our three kids between 10-13 years. And we do understand, that we missed a lot of fancy and special sites. But thanks to tips from your site, we got to see Venice even if we had only one day to spare!"
 
(Editor's note: The site that Harri Vainio refers to is our main Venice for Visitors site. Another useful resource is our new QuickVenice companion site, which is geared to people who are in a hurry or who are using smartphones.)

Campo San Simeon Grande (or 'Profeta,' if you prefer)

Campo San Simeon Grande, Venice

ABOVE: This view of the Campo San Simeon Grande was taken from room 303 of the Hotel Ai Due Fanali (see below). The wooden structure at upper right is an altana, or roof terrace, where hotel guests can have breakfast on warm and sunny days.

One of our favorite squares in Venice is the pretty and peaceful Campo San Simeon Grande--or the Campo San Simeon Profeta, depending on which map you're using.

The Campo San Simeon Grande is tucked away in the sestiere or district of Santa Croce, less than 10 minutes on foot from the Santa Lucia Railroad Station and the Piazzale Roma. It's one of the few squares in Venice that face the Grand Canal.

As a bonus, the small campo has several park benches next to the canal, making it the perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing or to enjoy a picnic with views of passing water buses and other boat traffic.

The square also has three excellent hotels--two directly on the Grand Canal, and the third with views of the canal from most rooms:

  • Ca' Nigra Lagoon Resort (four stars), where you can have breakfast or drinks in a large walled garden next to the water.
  • Canal Grande (four stars), where many rooms overlook the Grand Canal, the campo, or both.
  • Ai Due Fanali (three stars), with most rooms facing the square. (See our illustrated review with step-by-step walking directions to the Campo San Simeon Grande).

We think the Campo San Simeon Grande is a wonderful place to stay if you want to be near the railroad station or the Piazzale Roma, don't mind crossing a couple of bridges, and prefer to avoid the tourist crowds. But even if you don't stay in the campo, be sure to pay it a visit when you're out and about in Venice. 

More photos and a video:

BELOW: Another view of the campo, showing the Hotel Ai Due Fanali (back of square) and the adjoining Church of San Simeon Profeta.

Church of San Simeon Grande and Hotel Ai Due Fanali

BELOW: The square has not just two, but three different names. This one (shown on a faded wall sign) is in Venetian dialect.

Campo S. Simon Grando sign, Venice

BELOW: This video shows what you might see while sitting on a park bench in the Campo San Simeon Grande: