Getting round Venice – sometimes it’s easier on foot

While I await my release from quarantine captivity I thought I’d pass on a simple tip for new visitors to Venice. Yes, this is a city built on water. Yes, there is an excellent public transport system based on regular vaporetti services. They’re a wonderful way to travel and unmissable, whether it’s a service round the city or across to the Lido or that essential trip down the Grand Canal.

But here’s the truth… often the easiest way to get somewhere is on foot. Now you will get lost at times — even after twenty-five years coming here I do. And getting lost in Venice is one of its delights.

But navigating the city’s labyrinth of streets and alleys and dead ends is a lot easier than it used to be. The main routes are usually marked. When they’re not there’s always Google Maps which is accurate these days, good at calculating routes, and you can go right down into street level detail too.

Let me illustrate the difference between walking and vaporetti with a couple of common examples. First the journey from the Accademia in Dorsoduro to the Piazza San Marco. That’s ten minutes or so on the vaporetto Number One, and a very pleasant and visual exit from the mouth of the Grand Canal into St. Mark’s Basin. Well worth it. But so’s the walk.

Just four minutes more or so and you’ll take in some interesting churches and campi . When you walk over the Accademia bridge onto the San Marco side make sure to stop and find the wellhead. It’s the one in this Canaletto painting from around 1725, the view from Campo San Vidal where the Accademia bridge now rises.

Canaletto, The Stone Mason’s Yard

The building across the water is the former scuola and church which is now the Accademia. The white campanile to the right belongs to the church of San Trovaso which is still active today, close to a much-photographed gondola yard.

Now for another interesting itinerary from the Accademia, up to the Rialto bridge. Twelve minutes on the Grand Canal on the Number One.

Pretty much the same on foot except you don’t have to wait for the boat to turn up. Again, both interesting journeys. But the Number One is very much a slow, stop everywhere service which can, in normal times, get very crowded. This can sometimes make short journeys longer than they should be (think people getting on the Tube in London to reach Leicester Square a few hundred yards away).

A good example is Rialto to the Piazza San Marco. On the Number One it’s more than twenty minutes all around the bend of the Grand Canal. On foot…

Just seven minutes.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that walking is better than the boats. They’re both wonderful. But don’t assume you always have to take the vaporetto. A quick check on Google Maps will soon show you the alternatives. Venice is a wonderful walking city. Along the Zattere to the Punta della Dogana. Around the Giovanni e Paolo and Fondamente Nove. Then there’s the iron walkway outside the wall of the Arsenale (which I assume is still open — can’t check right now).

So much to explore. Here, finally, is one of my favourite walks for the sights, the local life, the odd cafe to stop at, and some wonderful churches and campi. All the way from the Giardini, stopping in the via Garibaldi, then walking through to Campo Santa Maria Formosa and on to the Rialto.

With any luck I will be free in two days and stomping along that one myself.