May 24, 2024

An Unforgettable Taxi Ride

The start of our light speed ride from Venice airport to hotel.

“This is one boat ride you’ll never forget,” said Ernest Hemingway to his friend, A.E. Hotchner, upon their arrival in Venice. “No one ever forgets his first ride down the canals of Venice.” The famous author and his biographer were climbing into a motor launch dispatched from the Gritti Palace when Hemingway, a frequent visitor to Venice, uttered these words.

I too have taken a water taxi to my hotel in Venice and it was indeed an unforgettable experience. After landing at the Marco Polo Airport with my husband and two teenaged sons, we emerged from the baggage claim area to see signs at several counters announcing there were no motoscafi (water taxis) available.

It was the height of summer and very busy but we weren’t discouraged by the prospect that all of the city’s water taxis had been reserved. We walked with our luggage past the crowds and headed outside to the water taxi docks. Most of the slips were empty, with only a couple of these classic cabin cruisers tied up. We approached a boatman who was striding down the dock and about to leave with his customers and their luggage stowed on board, but he called to a boatman on a nearby dock.

Some words in Italian were exchanged and he gestured for us to proceed to the next slip where an empty water taxi was tied up. We hustled over to where the other boatman was standing and quickly negotiated a price for him to take us to our hotel, or perhaps I should say we nodded our heads when he said the ride would cost us 110 euro. Then he took our bags and we climbed aboard.

Well, suddenly four jet-lagged travellers from North America were wide awake as we sped across the Venice lagoon, our vessel’s polished mahogany topsides gleaming in the mid-day sun. My hair blew straight back in the apparent wind as we raced past the fairway buoys marking the channel that leads from the mainland to the cluster of islands upon which the magical city of Venice was built.

Still flying along the canals of Venice.

The boat slowed as we approached the islands of Venice, then turned into a narrow canal, our driver threading his craft past the medieval buildings lining the edges of islands connected by footbridges. It appeared our motorboat would barely squeeze beneath some of these low bridges but our driver was unfazed as we maintained a steady speed along the winding canals busy with waterborne traffic.

Passing iconic St. Mark’s Square.

A few minutes later we emerged from these narrow side canals into St. Mark’s Basin where dozens of vessels, including the city’s vaporetti (boat buses), were moving in all directions and churning the waters that lapped onto the piazzetta in front of St. Mark’s Square. We took in the panoply of passing sights, including views across the water of St. Mark’s Cathedral, before whizzing past the entrance to the Grand Canal.

Finally we pull alongside our hotel on Giudecca Canal.

A minute later we were pulling up to our hotel overlooking the Giudecca Canal. Taking our cue from our driver, who obviously didn’t have a minute to spare as he quickly hauled our luggage onto the dock, we disembarked, paid the fare and he was gone. Our whirlwind arrival in Venice was, as Hemingway said, one we would never forget.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.