General Advice

Can you trust ACTV vaporetto timetables?

Venice San Zaccaria ACTV stop

ABOVE: The No. 7 water bus offers direct service from San Zaccaria (near the Piazza San Marco) to the glassmaking island of Murano, but when we took it in April, the ACTV's official published timetable didn't even show the route (although the ACTV map and station timetables did).



V
enice's ACTV transit system offers a convenient (if expensive) way to get around Venice's historic center. It's also the most practical way to reach Murano, the Lido di Venezia, and other islands in the Venetian Lagoon.

At our travel-planning site, Venice for Visitors, we include a page with links to the ACTV's official route map and timetables, which can help you figure out how to get from point A to B when you're in Venice. But we do feel compelled to share a warning:

The ACTV Web site can be slow to update published timetables!

If you're visiting Venice at the beginning or end of a season (say, in spring or fall), you may find that some routes are missing from the published timetable and some routes have stopped operating for the season.

Fortunately, the ACTV's route map is more reliable than the timetables are. Here's a workable strategy to prevent disappointments or unpleasant surprises when the ACTV's published timetable hasn't been updated quickly enough:

1. Look for routes of interest on the ACTV map. (You can download the map or view it at any ACTV vaporetto station.)

2. Check the ACTV published timetable for information about the route (which may or may not be shown, depending on the time of year).

3. When you're in Venice, go to one of the stations on the boat line that interests you. Look for the route timetable near the waterbus platforms to confirm that the boat is in operation.

The captioned photos below will help you check ACTV route numbers when you're in Venice.



At ACTV waterbus stations, you'll see route numbers displayed above the pontili or floating platforms:

ACTV pontile

ACTV route numbers



Larger stations may have four or more platforms, with station maps to help you find the right pontoon:

ACTV Rialto station map



Once you've found the pontile or platform for the vaporetto line that interests you, look for a route timetable:

ACTV station map and timetable



Tip:
You'll often find a route sign inside the pontile's waiting area. This sign shows the stations where the water bus will stop, so you can plan where to get off before you board the boat.

ACTV vaporetto line map



F
or more information about public and private transit in Venice, see the Venice Transportation and Parking guide at Veniceforvisitors.com.


Dipping in the doo-doo

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ABOVE: Before cooling your heels in Venice's canals, put on latex socks.

In the summer months, it isn't uncommon to see tourists dipping their toes or feet into Venice's canals, presumably in an effort to keep cool.

Before emulating those clueless or intrepid visitors, consider this: An estimated 90 percent of Venice's human waste is flushed directly into the city's canals, and a public-health study detected Hepatitis A virus and enteroviruses in 78 percent of the canals that were tested over a two-year period from 2003 to 2005.

Venice's canal-based sewer system is more than a thousand years old, and it continues to work well by medieval or pre-Victorian standards.

The principle is simple: Venice's canals are flushed by tides twice a day, and the receding tides pull waste from the canals into the Venetian Lagoon and ultimately toward the Adriatic Sea. As a bonus, saltwater has a mild sanitizing effect. (Dilution helps, too--there's far water in a Venice canal than in a typical sewer pipe.)

Critics point out that detergents and other modern "grey water" pollutants interfere with the natural breakdown of fecal matter. That may be true, but even if it weren't, the fact remains that dumping raw sewage into public waterways isn't acceptable in the 21st Century.

The city has made some efforts on the sewerage front--renovated properties are theoretically required to have pozzi neri or septic tanks, for example--but for the most part, building drains flush directly into the canals, and the gospel song Wade in the Water is bad advice for visitors to Venice.

 More photos:

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ABOVE: A visitor enjoys a fecal footbath. 

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ABOVE: During acqua alta (tidal flooding), water from Venice's polluted canals oozes into the streets.

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ABOVE: A pozzo nero ("black well") boat sucks out a septic tank at a bar near the Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio.


No bicycling in Venice: an update

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ABOVE: A bicyclist poses as a passerby takes his photo on a footbridge.

Back in 2010, we wrote a Stupid Tourist Tricks post titled "Bicycling in Venice" that showed visitors taking two-wheelers into Venice's historic center. Bicycling in the city center was illegal then, and it still is--although you might never guess it from the number of clueless or rebellious tourists who can be seen with bikes near Venice's railroad station and Piazzale Roma.

To be fair, the prohibition against bicycles may not be obvious to visitors who haven't done their research, and not all offenders are tourists. (A few years ago, we often saw a local man arrive by bicycle at his workplace near the Campo Santa Margherita in Venice's Dorsoduro district.) 

A suggestion to Venice's authorities: Place "No bicycles allowed in Venice" signs near the exits from the Piazzale Roma and the Santa Lucia Railroad Station, and make it more obvious where visitors can park their bikes. That way, bicyclists wouldn't have an excuse for bringing their biciclette into the city center.

More photos:

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ABOVE: A pair of bicyclists enter Venice's Santa Lucia Railroad Station from the pedestrian zone.

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ABOVE: Another bicycling couple roll their bikes across the Calatrava Bridge between the railroad station and the Piazzale Roma.

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ABOVE: A visitor hauls his bike over the Scalzi Bridge near the railroad station.

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ABOVE: A man explores the city center on what appears to be a folding unicycle with training wheels.