Driving a Car to the Venetian Canals?

Water taxis are the principal way around Venice
Airport water taxi in Venice

Renting a car in Venice, Italy, the city of canals? Is that a crazy idea? The main tourist island of Venice is navigated by water taxis and gondolas. But there are reasons why you may want to have a car in Venice.

Only part of Venice is the lagoon and its islands. A large part of the city is on the adjacent mainland in a part of the city called Mestre. That same is true for the airport which is also on the mainland. You can drive from the mainland to the main island in the lagoon, but you can only get as far as the main train station for Venice. If you plan to take a train from Venice to one of the nearby cities, you might want to drive your car to the station.

Getting around the islands on the canals with a lot of luggage can be a pain. In Venice you see many tourists wheeling their suitcases up and down the many bridges that cross the canals and down the narrow sidewalks next to the canals. They are on their way from the nearest gondola stopping point on the canal to their hotels. Once checked in, they’ll have to stay put or reverse the difficult task of moving their baggage to their next stop.

The transportation from the train station to any point on the islands in the lagoons is very easy as it is a central transit point for all modes of transportation. The train station has a large parking garage. So, driving there and taking other modes of transport from there onward makes a lot of sense.

Accommodations on the mainland are much less costly than on the lagoon. Since it is so easy to get to the lagoon with its tourist sites and restaurants, it makes a lot of sense for the budget-oriented traveler to stay on the mainland and use a car to get around. You can also take buses or a train (12 minutes) to the main train station from Mestre.

A parking lot also exists at the main port where cruise ships dock. The port is located near the train station, only 20 minutes away on foot. So, you may enjoy the convenience of hopping in your car when you return from a cruise to head for your next destination or to the airport.

There is a “people mover,” a sort of tram, that goes from the port to the train station for those on a cruise who want to make a quick visit to the lagoon island. You can get to either the train station or the port by car and travel between these two points by the people mover. The train station is at the hub of much tourist activity.

Finally, one of the popular lagoon islands, Lido (beach in Italian), allows cars on it. There are ferries that accommodate cars to get your car to the island. Lido is the only island in Venice that has a beach, so it is a popular place to visit in its own right. So, if you’re a beach bum needing to tool around, that’s another reason to have a car.

Bottom line: While Venice is largely on islands which do not allow cars and people get around by boat, there are many good reasons why you might want a car in Venice.

If you don’t have a car in Venice and you fly into the city, taking a water taxi or the equivalent of a water bus to the closest stop near your hotel is doable. It’s a little tricky finding the docks that are close to the airport. Once you find them, finding the right dock for your destination is also a bit tricky. But if you keep asking, someone is bound to understand English and be able to help you.

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