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Getting Help with Luggage in Venice

I recently got a comment on the site from a woman planning a solo trip to Venice, where she would be renting an apartment for a week-long stay. She asked whether there was any way to get her bags from whatever vaporetto stop was closest to her apartment to the apartment itself – potentially hauling it over a bridge or two – without carrying the bags herself. While she was planning to pack light, she said she was a senior citizen and didn’t want to be struggling with even one bag over a bridge.
This got me thinking.
Venice is by nature completely inaccessible to wheeled vehicles past the sole parking lot (and bus stop) at Piazzale Roma. Yet not everyone who visits the city is on a cruise, staying in a hotel that’s a short walk on flat surfaces from Piazzale Roma, or traveling with attendants. So, for those of you who are packing light and still don’t feel able to carry your bags from where the vaporetto or water taxi drops you off and where your hotel or apartment rental is, how do you get your bags where they need to be?
Luckily, when I have questions I generally find that I have friends who know the answers. In this case, I sent an email to my friend Nan McElroy of the Living Venice blog. She lives in Venice and is the author of the oh-so-fabulous “Italy: Instructions for Use” book. I put together her suggestions with mine, and have come up with the following list of options to avoid carrying your own bags up and down bridges all over Venice.

  • Choose Accommodation Wisely – This is the easiest option, partly because it’s not going to cost extra. When you’re picking where you’re going to stay in Venice, make sure you locate it on a map that includes things like vaporetto stops and bridges. That way you’ll know in advance just how far you’ll have to schlep your bags from wherever the vaporetto or water taxi drops you off – and if it’s too far, you can choose a different hotel or apartment. There are so many vacation rentals and hotels in Venice, you should be able to find one that’s acceptable and doesn’t present an enormous challenge to reach.
  • Ask for Help from the Hotel or Landlord – This is another option that’s relatively easy, although it’s a question you’ll want to have answered before you book your accommodation. Let’s say you’re choosing between a few hotels or apartment rentals. Send this question to all of them and see how they answer: “Will there be someone who could help me get my bags from the vaporetto stop to the hotel/apartment?” A reply in the affirmative is a good thing. Remember that if they agree to send someone to help you, you’ll need to let them know pretty specifically when you’ll arrive. Give them a general time at first, and then a quick phone call from the airport or the train station to let them know where you are will give them an idea of exactly when they can expect you. Contrary to what you might think, you won’t be able to get assistance with your bags from a water taxi driver (except to load them on/off the boat) because they’re obligated to stay with their boats.
  • Try Your Luck with a Porter – There are a couple of places in Venice where there are supposed to be porters on hand, waiting to be hired to do things like carry bags from a vaporetto stop to a nearby hotel. The problems with counting on these porters are two-fold. First, they’re only officially supposed to be at the San Marco stop – so if your accommodation is anywhere else but close to St. Mark’s Square you’re out of luck already. But second, they’re so rarely available that even if your accommodation is close to St. Mark’s it’s not a guarantee you’ll find a porter ready and waiting when you get off the vaporetto.
  • Use a Trasbagagli Service – If you are coming into Venice from a cruise, you may be able to take advantage of a porter service based at the Venice cruise terminal (for a fee, of course). Ask the cruise operator in advance whether there will be a bag transfer service you can hire when you get there, or if it requires advance booking. There are also “trasbagagli” services that will ferry bags from places like the cruise terminal or the airport to certain major vaporetto stops (like S. Zaccaria and Rialto), but they’re usually for large quantities of bags – when a tour group arrives altogether, for instance – and arranged by a tour company. It’s possible to hire them to transport only your personal bags, but it won’t be cheap.
  • Hire an Accompagnatore Turistico – For the utmost in assistance, you can hire your very own “accompagnatore turistico,” or “tourist companion.” There’s a fairly detailed certification process people need to go through in order to be listed as an “accompagnatore turistico” with the Venice tourism board, and you can search through the listings online by either a name (if you know the name of the person you’re looking for) or by the languages they speak. The site’s entirely in Italian, however, so if you’re looking for an English-speaking companion/guide/assistant, type “inglese” into the box called “Lingua,” and then click “Cerca.” Click on “vai alla scheda” next to any of the resulting names to get their contact information and, in some cases, see their rates.

Of course, the best thing you can possibly do when it comes to dealing with luggage in Venice is to pack light – it’s a city that definitely rewards those who are more mobile – but if you’re packing light and you still need help with your bags, hopefully one of the options listed above will work for you.
photos, top to bottom, by: cedricseow, dblackadder, Jarod Carruthers