If you want to experience riding in a traditional Venetian gondola, but you don’t want to pay the 100+ euros that a private gondola ride costs, try a traghetto ride. A traghetto is a public transport gondola that takes you in a straight line from one side of the Grand Canal to the other side.
Taking a traghetto will save having to spend much of your walking time looking for bridges to cross the canal – and it’s also a great way to participate in an authentic Venetian experience with the locals. A traghetto ride will cost you less than a dollar, which you hand to an oarsman as you get on. It’s the best transportation bargain (and the cheapest gondola ride) in Venice.
Traghetti are old gondolas stripped of their brocaded chairs and luxury trimmings. They are rowed by two oarsmen: one who stands in the back like a traditional gondolier, the other closer to the bow. Passengers generally stand for the short trip, although you can sit down as well.
Don’t confuse traghetto with vaporetto. A vaporetto is a motorized water bus that runs the length of the Grand Canal. In contrast, a traghetto (or traghetti, plural) is a gondola that is rowed by oarsmen and crosses the Grand Canal from side to side.
There are various traghetti operating at seven points along the canal. The longest and probably most useful is the one between S.Tomà and S.Angelo.