The Vaporetto is No Friend of Mine


After a day of chilly off and on rain, we were thrilled to wake to sun. We scampered onto our shuttle intending to make our way to Rialto bridge via Frari Church and Scuola San Rocco. With the better weather, we made a last minute decision to make a trip to neighboring islands instead.

Unfortunately, confusion about the public boat schedules combined with pushy crowds left us stuck under cover on a boat stop during the only sun of the day. By the time we finally muscled our way onto a vaporetto packed to standing room only, the weather had turned raw. It’s a 45-minute ride to Murano, which would be more than tolerable if you have a seat, but smushed against the steel wall of a hull made me feel less like a tourist on vacation and more like cattle.

On the way to Murano, you have the option to get off the vaporetto at Cimitero. When Napolean decreed it unsanitary to bury the dead near the living, Venetians reserved a nearby island as a burial place and Venetians are still buried there today. Now if you know me even a little bit, you know that there is no way I’d miss a chance to see a cemetery island.

Cemetary StatueCemetary IslandCrypt doorCemetary gate

Nothing so romantic as a cemetery on a rainy day, right? (Kidding!)

Laura and Tom in cemetary

From Cimitero, we took the vaporetto to Murano, which is a small island featuring glass-making businesses. Seeing a glassmaker create a prancing horse from a molten bubble is nothing short of magic. I could have watched him all day and I would have if it weren’t for the fact that I felt guilty for taking up space when children were waiting to watch. After lunch, each of us selected a glass object for a souvenir.

MuranoMuran glass sculptureMurano lighthouse

We then hopped the next packed vaporetto to Burano, an even smaller island of fisherman and lace-makers. I’m talking small island. We walked from one end to the other in about ten minutes.

Boys in Burano Burano again

We grabbed some Burano bicuits (famous ‘S’ shaped cookies), took photos of the charming pastel-colored houses and we were back on yet another packed vaporetto heading to Venice. This time, the boat was so full that we couldn’t get inside so we were stuck on the main deck in the cold. I admit it: I was on sensory overload at this point. The many boats, the many stops, the many languages being spoken all around me, the many people shoving and pushing  – all of it combined to make this my least favorite moment during our trip to Venice. The islands themselves were charming and offered a wonderful addition to the experience of Venice. It was the vaporetto that I didn’t love. Had I known better, I would have splurged on the private tour, but everything is so expensive in Venice that it’s sometimes hard to figure how where to spend money and where to save.

The weather worsened in the late afternoon so rather than return to the main island for dinner, we elected to go to a restaurant on our own island just a few blocks down from the hotel. Again, we were greeted with a warm staff and a cozy environment. Even better? Tom found a place that sold HDMI cables so we could watch movies from our younger son’s laptop for free rather than pay the 14 euro charge from the hotel!

6 responses to “The Vaporetto is No Friend of Mine

  1. Reblogged this on Sassi Italy Tours and commented:
    Really enjoying Ms. Sibson’s creative and charming write up for her time with family in Venice. But…(and this is a touchy subject, so no intention to offend the DIY crowd)…this is why what Sassi Italy Tours does is worth the slight increase in cost over doing it yourself. Doug knows the vaporetti as well as the pilots themselves, and when he’s in Venice, ITALIAN people ask him for directions, things to to see, and places to eat. Imagine having a friend from Milan who can help you get around Washington, DC and New York City better than you can, and you have the idea. Avoiding crowds, timing things to avoid them, and not getting lost or wondering where to be when is something unique we can offer that maximizes your time spent enjoying Italy and minimizes your time spent being elbowed in the ribs by hordes of fellow tourists who don’t care if you’re having an enjoyable, relaxing time or not.

    Part of the fun sure is getting off the beaten path and wondering on your own, for sure, and her recounting of Rome and Venice is an entertaining read. Travel on!


  2. Sounds like you handled it well! The customs we have outside of Italy for respecting the personal space of others on mass transit sometimes don’t apply in Italy :).

    Sad Burano wasn’t your favorite part of Venice…if you see it on an off day when there are no crowds, it truly is a magical place. On your next visit!

    Thanks for the great write ups. Enjoy your writing!


  3. Sassiitalytours – thanks for your comment and for re-blogging. I was utterly charmed by Burano, I’m sorry that didn’t come through. My family was pretty tired by that time so we didn’t give Burano nearly the time she deserved. And yes, using a tour group like yours would have saved us time as well as frustration. Are the vaporetti notoriously crowded?


    • Ah, phew…glad you had a chance to get a feel for the “magic” of the place, but I agree that crowds can make it seem less enjoyable.

      And yes, they can be crowded, though I was surprised they were as crowded this early in the season–though proximity to Easter probably is a factor. A couple weeks earlier you’d have had them almost to yourselves. But good on you guys for getting off the beaten path and seeing spots like Burano. Too many folks see San Marco and the Rialto and miss the stuff you guys got to see.


      • Yes, I was assuming Easter drew more crowds than usual. I wasn’t prepared for just how much of a tourist mecca Venice is. Rome is like NYC, tourists mixing with locals. But Venice felt like it was almost all tourists. And as you say, they are all walking the same paths to the same places. We were glad to find some back ways up to Campo Barnaba and so on where is was quiet and peaceful.


      • Yeah, the Venetians are sort of invisible…it’s an expensive place to live and the population is way lower than it used to be as a result. Most of the folks you see working there are probably commuting in. It really can feel a bit claustrophobia inducing when you’re in a mass of tourists. It really is a magical time capsule for tourists to experience and while that’s part of the wonder and mystery, it also can feel a bit “tourist trap-ish.” We usually try to steer people to make sure you do eat at little places where Venice’s residents would eat–anything that advertises a sign that says “menu turistico” is to be assiduously avoided. 🙂


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