Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice once ruled the Mediterranean as a shipping power, amassing vast wealth and producing some of Europe’s greatest artistic and cultural treasures. But, over the centuries, Venice has declined a bit and what remains of its former grandeur makes Venice a living tribute to the past.

Venice is in north-eastern Italy, which sits between the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west.

Venice is a walking city, full of labyrinthian streets and lots of bridges so comfortable shoes are a must.

If using a vaporetto (canal buses), make sure you have your ticket stamped at the first station you visit.

The Piazza San Marco, the Bell Tower, St Mark’s Basilica and the Grand Canal are all very popular attractions here. There are also lots of art galleries and cathedrals/churches to visit, such as San Zaccaria, St Mary of the Friars and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, as well as shops, bars and restaurants. It can get very busy in high season.

Other places of interest include the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ca’ Rezzonico Palace and Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

Glassware, Burano lace table linen and carnival masks are all popular buys.

Apart from the usual pasta and pizzas on offer, seafood features highly on menus. Other local dishes include polenta, ‘sepe al nero’ (cuttlefish cooked with their ink lagoon), ‘fegato ała venesiana’ (liver and onions) and ‘bigołi in salsa’ (bigoli pasta with an anchovy and onion sauce).

Since September 2019, Venice City charges day-trippers a tax of up to EUR 10/USD 11 per person.

The disabled cruiser visiting Venice will discover that there are no hills in Venice. All of the Venice neighborhoods are flat (except for the bridges). Unlike other cities in Italy, there are no cobblestones in Venice. The sidewalks and streets in the neighborhoods are paved or have smooth paving stones, and there aren’t any curbs anywhere.

Most people think of a whole lot of bridges and canals when they think of Venice. While this is accurate, there are over 400 bridges in Venice. Only a few can be called moderately wheelchair accessible and then only if there is someone there to assist. There are actually numerous neighborhoods that can be visited without needing to go over any bridges. As a result, over half of Venice can be visited in a wheelchair.

The vaporetto boats (canal buses) in Venice are generally wheelchair accessible and very useful for getting from neighborhood to neighborhood. Although not all docks are accessible all the time (depending on how crowded the boat is), the vaporetto make for an easy way to avoid bridges. The vaporetto are designed to float at the same level as the floating docks making for a flat transfer between the boat and the dock. Many times of day, the boat is full of travelers and it floats a little lower than the dock. The difference can be the size of a large curb (about 10 inches). The secret to avoiding this is to be the first on and last off. The height difference is small if you let the people get off the boat first.

The two most popular tourist attractions in Venice without a doubt are St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. They are located right next to each other along St. Mark’s Square. Disabled Cruisers can skip the long line at St. Mark’s Basilica by heading to the exit at the left side of the church. The Doge’s Palace has a significantly shorter line and you will also need to enter through the exit which is located at the end closest to St. Mark’s Basilica.

There are few public accessible toilets, and some restaurants in Venice have accessible bathrooms. Locating them is not always and easy task, and finding a Venice wheelchair accessible restroom when you are looking for it can take some time.

Venice disabled access building codes require that remodeled buildings are wheelchair accessible, however most buildings have not been remodeled.

Where You’re Docked

Venice Cruise Terminal is located in the west area of the city, between Tronchetto Island and Piazzale Roma. In this area there are 3 terminals (cruises, ferries and hydrofoils).

Some cruise lines offer a complimentary water shuttle between the port facility of Venezia Terminal Passeggeri and San Marco. Alternatively, Alilaguna offers water bus service from Stationze Marittima, direct from the end of the port (in front of the terminal) to San Marco or take the People Mover (about a 15 minute hike) that’s adjacent to the port. It will take you to Piazzle Roma, where you can get an ACTV water bus.

Since November 2017, Venice seaport access (through Giudecca Canal) is denied to cruise liners with GT tonnage over 100,000 tons. Instead, the vessels are rerouted to Port Marghera, from where passengers are ferried to downtown.

In August 2019, Danilo Toninelli, Italy’s minister of infrastructure and transport, announced that starting now, Venice Italy will start rerouting cruise liners away from city’s historic downtown. Some ships will be redirected to dock at Lombardia and Fusina terminals meaning they’ll stay on lagoon’s other side, away from the central Venice Islands. The aim is “to reroute about one-third of the cruise ships already booked on Venice towards new berths by 2020.”

Good to Know

Venice is a walking city, full of labyrinthian streets and tons of bridges (usually requiring steps up and down again), so wear your most comfortable shoes.

If you, like most visitors, plan to take a vaporetto, make sure you have your ticket stamped at the first station you visit. (All stations have automated ticket machines.)

Credit cards are accepted at most places, but we found that many restaurants and shops refused to accept American Express, so make sure you have a MasterCard or Visa handy.

Finally, Venice during the months of July and August in particular is a cautionary tale: It’s overcrowded, maneuvering its narrow pathways is difficult at best, and it’s often hot and steamy.

Getting Around

Venice’s fabulous public transportation system, the water buses run every 10 to 15 minutes and go just about everywhere. The cost is about 7 euro per ride, depending on where you go. If you plan to use public transportation several times, consider buying a one-day Venice Card. You can buy in advance online, or purchase a card at any ticket office (like the one at Piazzale Roma) or at shops that sell sundries. Prepare to pay cash. You can also purchase the pass onboard.

You can also hire a water taxi from the port, but it’s pretty expensive; expect to pay around 60 euro to get from San Marco Square to your ship.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the euro and ATM machines, which are plentiful, offer the best exchange rates. Local “cambio” shops and banks exchange dollars to euros for a fee.

Language

Venetians speak a unique dialect of Italian called Veneziano. English is not widely spoken (or comprehended), aside from tourist-oriented hotels, restaurants and shops.

Shopping

Venice is famous for its Murano glass (and a trip to the island of Murano, with its numerous glass galleries and handful of factories is a great way to get a feel for it) but whoever’s made it, glass objects make great souvenirs and range from inexpensive glass necklaces — sold on the street for about $5 — to elaborate barware and chandeliers.

At lunchtime, eat at the poolside restaurant at Hotel Cipriani on Giudecca. For dinner, try the Cip’s Club, an outdoor pizzeria-grill with tables that sit on a deck right on the lagoon. Tip: Reservations for the Cip’s Club absolutely need to be made in advance.

There’s also a branch of the famed Harry’s on Giudecca. While it’s breathtakingly expensive (pasta entrees start at 34 euros), the food is marvelous, the ambience is authentically Venetian, and fellow diners, more or less, are all locals.

Points of Interest

  • St. Mark’s Square & Basilica – A breath-taking landmark, this famous basilica is unlike any other. It’s adorned with golden facade mosaics, marble and bronze statues, five domes, and spectacular city views from the bell tower. The Disabled Cruiser will use the wheelchair accessible ramped entrance to the St. Mark’s Basilica

  • Doge’s Palace – Perhaps the city’s most famous symbol of Venice’s culture, this magnificent 14th century palace was the seat of power and the palace of justice. The Bridge of Sighs was built to link it to the prison. The Disabled Cruiser will find wheelchair access at Venice Doge’s Palace is possible by an accessible entrance and an elevator to get up to the upper floor. The ticket office is not wheelchair accessible so you’ll need someone with you to go inside and purchase the tickets and rent the audio guide. The interior courtyard of the Doge’s Palace has a large stairway that most tourists go up. Wheelchair users will need to ask a staff member to escort you to the elevator. A small ramp leads to the cafeteria where the elevator goes up to the upper floor. A wheelchair accessible toilet is located on the ground floor.  
  • Grand Canal – This busy water way is lined with 170 buildings dating between the 13th to 17th centuries. The Disabled Cruiser can ride the #1 and #2 vaparetto routes down Venice’s Grand Canal and are the most popular for tourists.
  • Murano Glass Showroom – Murano Island has been the place for Venetian glassworks since 1291. In Saint Mark’s area, You’ll get to see the craft and examine some of the exquisite works for yourself as you tour one of the leading glass showrooms.
  • Gondola Ride – This is the ultimate Venetian experience. Traditionally clad gondoliers pilot you along the some of the Floating City’s inner waterways crossed with scores of ancient stone bridges. The Disabled Cruiser will find that the gondola station at Piazzale Roma is 100% wheelchair friendly, it has been made especially so people in wheelchairs can enjoy the experience. It is located just down from Piazzale Roma by the treponti Bridge leading to the Giardini papadopoli. You can take the ramp down from Piazzale.
  • San Giorgio Church – The 16th century Church and monastery is considered one of architect Andrea Palladio’s masterpieces. It boasts two of Tintoretto’s greatest works: “The Last Supper” and “The Gathering of the Manna.”

Venice Accessible Excursions

The following accessible cruise excursions use wheelchair accessible water taxis instead of the vaparetto so you can make the most of your limited time in Venice. You won’t have to wait for any boats or stop at any unnecessary docks. All routes are bridge-free, step-free, and avoid all canals. These shore excursions are suitable for all wheelchair users, all mobility scooter users, and anyone who wants to avoid Venice bridges.

Venetian Empire Wheelchair Accessible Shore Excursion

A private wheelchair accessible water taxi will meet you at the cruise dock to comfortably bring you directly to St. Mark’s Square, to begin your 8 hour Venetian Empire Wheelchair Accessible Shore Excursion. You will visit the magnificent St. Mark’s Square, viewing the overhead mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica, and experiencing the history captured in the Doge’s Palace.

You will have a 2.5 hour private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica & Doge’s Palace. Your tour will use the wheelchair accessible ramped entrance to the St. Mark’s Basilica and the wheelchair accessible route through the Doge’s Palace.

The tour will take you through St. Mark’s Piazza to St. Mark’s Basilica where you will see centuries’ old work from some of the greatest Italian and European artists. There are some accessibility barriers (such as a small step) but your tour guide will ensure that you see everything that you can.

At Doge’s Palace, you will learn about the history of the Venetian government and see Doge’s Throne as well as the lovely courtyard. Your tour guide will ensure you get around the step at the main entrance and are able to use the private elevator.

In the afternoon, you are free to explore St. Mark’s neighborhood using the accessible routes and advice from your tour guide. You can visit the Correr Museum (accessible entrance), the Campanile, and see the Bridge of Sighs from the nearby ramped bridge. You could also have a cup of coffee at the tables lining St. Mark’s Square or shop in some of the wheelchair accessible boutiques.

Majestic Venice Wheelchair Shore Excursion

The 5 hour Majestic Venice Wheelchair Shore Excursion will start with a private wheelchair accessible van picking you up at the cruise dock and bringing you to a meetup point by the accessible water taxi. Your tour guide will meet you here and join you on the water taxi as you head out on a 1-hour Grand Canal tour. The Grand Canal tour will allow you to see many fascinating sights in a short period of time, without having to worry about accessibility and getting around. Escorted by your guide, you’ll then continue your morning visiting St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, two of the very best highlights of the city. Your guide is experienced in touring with elderly and disabled visitors, and will lead you using wheelchair friendly routes.

The tour will take you through St. Mark’s Piazza to St. Mark’s Basilica where you will use the wheelchair accessible ramped entrance to the St. Mark’s Basilica. There are some accessibility barriers (such as a small step) but your tour guide will ensure that you see everything that you can.

At Doge’s Palace, your tour will utilize the wheelchair accessible route through the Doge’s Palace and ensure you get around the step at the main entrance and are able to use the private elevator.

Upon completion of your memorable Venice tour, you will be escorted back to the cruise ship.

Taste of Venice Handicapped Cruise Excursion

This 8 hour Venice handicapped cruise excursion allows you to visit both sides of Venice: the popular and magnificent tourist attractions in St. Mark’s neighborhood & the intimate and charming neighborhoods where Venetians live their daily life. 

The Taste of Venice Handicapped Accessible Cruise Excursion begins with a wheelchair accessible van to meet your guide at Piazzale Roma pier to take the Vaporetto to the Rialto Mercato neighborhood where you can visit the morning fish market and the fruit market. After seeing how Venetians spend their daily lives, you’ll have the rest of the morning to explore the beautiful piazzas and back alleys with your tour guide. You can visit the shops in the intimate back streets. You’ll have lunch at one of the accessible restaurants on the Grand Canal next to the Rialto Bridge. Vaporetti, gondolas, and private boats will slowly cruise by your restaurant while you soak in the ambience of Venice.

The afternoon of this Venice handicapped cruise excursion starts with taking the Vaporetto from Rialto Mercato to St. Mark’s Square for your 2.5 hour private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica & Doge’s Palace. Your tour will use the wheelchair accessible ramped entrance to the St. Mark’s Basilica and the wheelchair accessible route through the Doge’s Palace.

The tour will take you through St. Mark’s Piazza to St. Mark’s Basilica where you will see centuries’ old work from some of the greatest Italian and European artists. There are some accessibility barriers (such as a small step) but your tour guide will ensure that you see everything that you can.

At Doge’s Palace, you will learn about the history of the Venetian government and see Doge’s Throne as well as the lovely courtyard. Your tour guide will ensure you get around the step at the main entrance and are able to use the private elevator.

Your tour guide will escort you back to the Vaporetto which will take you to your accessible van for the return to the cruise ship.

Supreme Venice Disabled Excursion

A wheelchair accessible van will meet you at the cruise dock and take you to your tour guide to begin your 8 hour Supreme Venice Disabled Excursion. You will be taking the Vaporetto to visit three uniquely different neighborhoods in a single day: 1) the Rialto Mercato neighborhood with the Fish Market, Fruit Market, and views of the Rialto Bridge, 2) the charming Ca d’Oro neighborhood with small back-street restaurants and wine bars where the locals gather, and 3) the popular St. Mark’s neighborhood with the iconic St. Mark’s Basilica, fascinating Doge’s Palace, and sprawling St. Mark’s Square.

Your morning will be spent visiting the beautiful and accessible Rialto Mercato neighborhood. You will get to see the fish market and the fruit market where Venetians purchase their supplies on a daily basis. After seeing how Venetians spend their daily lives, you’ll have the rest of the morning to explore the beautiful piazzas.

Next You will take the Vaporetto with your guide from the Rialto Mercato neighborhood to the charming and scenic Ca d’Oro neighborhood. You’ll spend the next two and half hours experiencing this charming neighborhood. You can experience Venetian cuisine in one of the intimate restaurants away from the masses of tourists. There are several accessible shopping options that you can reach using the bridge-free routes that will be provided.

In the afternoon you will take the Vaporetto from the Ca d’Oro neighborhood to the famous San Marco neighborhood. You’ll have a few hours to visit the most famous tourist sights in Venice. The Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica can both be visited in wheelchairs. There are several accessible shops you can reach via the bridge-free routes provided or you can just relax in the magnificent St. Mark’s Piazza.

At the end of the day, you will take the Vaporetto back to Piazzale Roma where your driver will be waiting take you back to your cruise dock.