Tips, Tricks, Packing, Points & More
“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” ― Erol Ozan
Venice is making some progress in becoming a more accessible city, but it still has a long way to go…it is, after all, an ancient city with some 400 bridges that are basically staircases. There were a couple of bridges with elevators, however, if they are still there (some have been removed due to constant breakdowns) you cannot count on them being operational. A few bridges may have ramps but, again, this cannot be counted on as they seem to come and go without warning.
The airport itself is accessible but, getting from the airport (on the mainland) to the island city of Venice can be a bit of a challenge if you travel with a mobility device. There are many options for transportation and it can be difficult to figure out which suits you best; we eventually opted for the Alilaguna Water Bus but only after making and then cancelling a reservation with a handicapped water taxi service (Sanitrans). IMHO arriving and departing via train is so much easier but we already had our flight booked and Marco Polo is a convenient entry (or exit) point to Italy.
If you fly into Marco Polo Airport, here are the options:
When I picture arriving in Venice…I am standing on an old wooden water taxi…George Clooney (I mean my husband) is standing next to me…the wind is blowing in our hair and we are laughing and sipping champagne. In reality the water taxi is €95-130, one way, for easy to reach hotels. Supplemental fees are added for internal canals, late or early hours or more than 4 passengers. Its a great way to go for the glamour, and if you can easily get yourself in and out of a boat. They are relatively affordable if you are in a group of 4. It isn't a good option if you are not able to easily climb into or out of a moving boat from a stationary dock. It can be even more difficult during high or low tides, causing you to have to step up or down quite a bit or to have to disembark from a location several bridge crossings away from your hotel/airbnb.
Accessible Water Taxi
Sanitrans is a local company specializing in transportation for handicapped travelers (and locals) in Venice and the surrounding islands. Their boats are specially equipped with lifts for standard and motorized wheelchairs, however, they may not be able to accommodate an electric scooter (see size and weight restrictions on their website). They also have additional staff to assist in getting in and out of the boat. In 2016 the fee was €130 one way with and additional €70 per hour for waiting (if your flight is delayed…) Contact them either by email or phone, here is their website: http://www.sanitrans.net/en/
Sage travel specializes in wheelchair tours all over Europe and they are a great resource for full service travel with a wheelchair. I contacted them for airport transfer and they were super responsive and easy to communicate with, however, their price was a range between €280-320 one way plus waiting time (over one hour). If you need a 100% accessible vacation I don't think you will find a better place to book one than Sage travel. Their website is helpful but geared toward booking you on one of their trips.
The Alilaguna water bus is what we ended up using. Not only is it very affordable (between €8 and €15 depending on distance) it is relatively easy to use depending on your abilities. With a comfortably high entry point to the boat and a small couple of stairs (with hand rails) for entering and exiting the boat this was the best choice for us. You are allowed to bring 2 bags, one suitcase and one hand luggage. We purchased an additional ticket for our scooter so we wouldn't run into any difficulties with “too much luggage”. This didn't deter our driver from not wanting to take the scooter, but we persisted…you just have to take some of these things in stride in Italy. The Alilaguna has specific stops so you need to be sure your hotel is located near one of the stops.
There are two bus lines that connect Marco Polo Airport to Venice; the ATVO and ACTV. The ATVO is the one you want to take from the airport to Piazzale Roma as it is a large and comfortable coach with plenty of luggage storage. The ACTV is more crowded and more for locals commuting to/from the airport with several stops between the airport and Piazzale Roma. If you are able to cross the large bridge connecting Piazzale Roma to Venice or, if you can manage some stairs to the Vaporetto docks with your luggage, the ATVO is only €3.
Once you arrive at your accommodations and are free of your luggage you can explore much of Venice on the Vaporetto water bus. Many of the Vaporetto lines are accessible via a ramp to the floating dock. If you find the boat is too high or to low to roll on or off, you can wait for the boat to level off with the transfer of weight on or off the boat and then roll on when it levels out. The line 1 and 2 which crisscross the Grand Canal can be crowded but we found most people give you room to negotiate getting on and off and many offer assistance.
Here are some additional resources on transportation in Venice that I think are helpful:
City of Venice Routes Without Barriers
Venice for You
Europe for Visitors