All Things Water Taxi Boats in Venice

When most people think of Venice one word comes to mind, water and a lot of it..

How Venetians navigate through the tiny canals and the lagoon of Venice is truly magical. There are many ways Venetians like to get around the islands of Venice and in the city itself. Some choose traditional methods like traditional Venetian rowing boats called sandalos. Others prefer the classic hybrid Venetian boat specialist the Sanpierota. A boat you can use with an oar that is held up by the trusty forcola or for the more adventurous users the sail. Most people use vaporettos or known in English as a waterbus. Many Venetians also have their own motorboats. Most of them modern plastic boats with 20 or 40 horsepower outboard engines.

While the most famous boat in Venice is still the Gondola another boat is held in high regard for Venetians and tourists, this boat is the water taxi.

The Venetian taxi is the complete sum of elegance, cool, sophistication and beauty that has come to define Venice. Also, known by Venetians as a “motoscafo” with its beautiful lines and iconoclastic style the Venetian water taxi is the mode of travel in the city preferred when you want to feel more like George Clooney.

Let us dive deep in this article about all things Venetian water taxis…

Venetian water taxis

The traditional mode of travel for many of the aristocratic guests was the Gondola. They were so prized that it even became the mode of travel for people like Peggy Guggenheim who called Venice home.

The first taxi boats to be built in Venice were always in wood using a long shaft drive system, making the boats a bit more complex to drive than the more modern Venetian taxi boat. The engines were placed in the front of the boat. The shape of the boat also differed that they were more in the shape of having a long foredeck and very nicely shaped cabin roofs; the most famous shipyard then was Cantiere Celli. The first taxi boats to be authorized for service began in the 1920’s and were considerably smaller than future adaptations of the taxi boat. The first documented motorboats being built date back to 1919, on the island of San Giorgio, where smaller motorboats for passenger use were being built. The first taxi authorizations were held personally rather than by organizations and only a few had these authorizations. The first Venetian water taxis were small due to the need to travel through the narrow channels in the city. The early taxi boats were built in planking and were very streamlined lines, with a long bow made for a quite max. hull speed rather then planing. Due to the size, these taxi boats carried less people and most taxis had internal engines with less than 100 horsepower. The more complex longer shaft driven drives from this period had more limitations and usually required more attention than the modern engines of taxis today.

While taxis were around officially in the 1920’s the popularity grew in around the 1950’s as more boats became readily available. However, the gondola was still a popular mode of transport along with the vaporetto’s (The Venetian waterbus). With the emergence of fiberglass materials, many taxi drivers and boat drivers alike wanted their boats to be made in fiberglass as a replacement for wood. With fiberglass boats, boats were able to be produced faster, boats became lighter and cheaper to build. Also, for the taxi driver easier to maintain than wood. However, many shipyards still carried on building in wood. The taxi started to become a popular choice for tourists in the 1960’s and in the 1970’s the emergence of a few important shipyards coupled with new engine innovations started to change the style of the Venetian taxi for more of what guests coming to Venice would see today.

Shipyards like Serenella, Cucchini and Tagliapietra have come to define the more contemporary beauty of water taxis in Venice, with each shipyard adding their own unique touch to the evolution of the water taxi.

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Serenella shipyard located in Murano became so famous abroad they were getting orders for their unique brand of taxi all over the world.

Taxis built by Serenalla were being shipped to boat enthusiasts all over the world including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, China, Switzerland, Holland, United Kingdom, Russia, Arab Emirates, China, Japan, Australia, and Polynesia. The taxi boats had become so wanted that Serenella, had more brand recognition abroad than in Italy.

The popularity of the Venetian taxi boat had come to now compete with the gondola for the preferred mode of transport by tourists due to new innovations that increased speed and introduction of newer stern-drive systems.

“If you own a Bentley or a Rolls Royce in London, in Venice you would probably own one of these famous thirty-foot cabin boats”.
Robert Speltz’s book ‘The Real Runabouts III’, he notes, of Serenella’s taxi designs.

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Shipyards started to build boats that focused on the immediate needs of the taxi drivers. For example, the bow of the taxi boat became shorter, the shaft driven engines were starting to be replaced by the new more efficient Z drive engines which became easier to drive coupled with the introduction of a bow thruster taxis became much easier for maneuvering. Also, the newer taxis could hold more people. By the 1980s and 1990’s the shape and style of the Venetian taxi boat had been solidified by shipyards like Serenella.

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Shipyards would start to copy the luxury tender runabout style with a luxury cabin that emerged in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s and 1990’s most boats were built in fiberglass and became lighter and more practical. As we move towards the present most of the newer taxi boats are still using hull designs from the 80’s and 90’s utilizing that style that emerged in the late 70’s. However, new innovations in green and clean technology have also led the way for creating sustainable taxi boats.

With Vizanello shipyard and Narduzzi shipyard creating the first hybrid electric taxi models in the city.

As we move to the future, we may start to also see taxi boats in Venice powered by hydrogen cells as the city has moved forward with many green projects in the boating sector. No matter what happens in the future guests coming to Venice can be assured to see beautiful taxi boats with a history that is as interesting as the city itself.

Taxi Dimensions

  • Normal Taxi – 9.50 meters length on average
  • Width 2.20 is the minimum 2.40 is the maximum width
  • Z-drive Volvo Penta with 150-250 horsepower (most only use 150 hp due to regulations within the city.)

The Best Taxi Companies

All of these Venetian taxi boat companies have loads of experience and offer a lot in the way of transport options for tourists coming or going to Venice. From airport drop-offs at Marco Polo airport to transport to Harry’s Bar getting a water taxi in Venice is the coolest way to travel.

Top 10

Here are a list of companies that we think offer great service:

Venice Dream Water Taxi

They offer nice modern taxis with very comfortable interiors.

Blitz Servizio Taxi Esclusivo

They have a beautiful selection of boats and are used to dealing with bigger groups as well as VIPs, from modern Rivas to classic taxi boats. They also offer transport on land with their selection of luxury cars from Mercedes to Teslas.

Venice Taxi Gianluca Penzo

They offer reliable service with modern fiberglass taxis. They have been around for than 20 years and have a lot of experience.

Book water taxi venice

A very professional company, with two types of taxi boats, the wooden more classic Venetian taxi boat and the more modern fiberglass version. They also have a car service for land transport with their fine selection of Mercedes.

Venice Limousine Service

Offer beautiful luxurious water taxi boats with very elegant interiors. They also offer limousine services on land for the complete VIP service.

Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia

A great and easy to use service via their website. They specialize in practical transfers in Venice from and to the airport. They offer simple modern taxi boats. If you book with them a roundtrip taxi service, you will get a 5% discount.

Venezia Turismo Motoscafi

They offer a variety of taxi boats from modern hybrid boats built by the famous Vizenllo shipyard, big tourism boats, classic wooden taxi boats to simpler fiberglass taxi boats.

Consorzio Venezia Futura

Offer a variety of comfortable modern luxury water taxi boats. They offer their boats for basic transports to Marco Polo Airport, weddings and commercial shoots.

Venice Transfer Airport

They offer a few transport options by land and water. They have in their fleet Mercedes vans and modern taxi boats. They offer many land options for pickup from the Venice Crusie Ship port or Pizalle Roma.

Radio Taxi Venezia

They are unique to this list as they are only a land taxi service. But we felt they deserved a shout out because they are very organized and offer impeccable service at very fair price points. Their website is also quite good.

The Rules and limitations of water taxis in Venice

Taxi service in Venice is heavily regulated to make sure that companies are safe and guests are safe. There are two types of Taxis, these are taxis with a yellow license or a green license. You will be able to see what type of taxi it is as they are marked on the windows of the taxi by a green sign or yellow sign. Yellow licensed taxis can pick-up guests at random and pick up guests by reservation. They can operate as a transport service but not as an experience-based company offering tours. As there are other companies that are offering these services and that are not allowed to offer services like transport. Companies like Classic Boats Venice can offer such tour experiences in the lagoon of Venice. Green licensed companies can only offer transport in Venice by reservation only and are not allowed to pick up random guests. The rules can be complicated, but Venetians do a really good job to respect them, and taxi drivers are very honest. The fees are standard, and all taxi companies have the same standard fees, so don’t ask for a discount. If needed you can always ask your driver for a receipt as they are required by law to offer you one.

Taxi Shipyards

Here are 3 great taxi shipyards that are building fantastic Venetian Taxi boats in wood, fiberglass, and other types of boats in Venice.

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Cantieri Vizianello

We just love this shipyard. The shipyard opened up its doors in the 1950s when a young Venetian shipbuilder decided to start building his own boats. This has stayed with the same family since the beginning. Each generation passing on shipbuilding knowledge to next group of boat builders and craftsmen. Cantieri Vizianello in the last decade has incorporated construction of bigger passenger boats for companies like Alilaguna, they also work with boat storage, repair and general maintenance of boats, restoration of historic boats also the construction of wooden taxi boats and fiberglass taxi boats. This shipyard has experts in every aspect of boat work needed, from mechanics, engineers, painters, carpenters, electricians, a team of master boat builders and designers. Some of their own designs have also ignited the boat building community in Venice and abroad. One of their newest projects, “Thunder Waterlimousine” is a completely hybrid taxi boat. This boat is available with a fiberglass hull or totally in mahogany as per tradition. The propulsion is a diesel engine combined with an electric motor that can work independently or collaborate in Hybrid mode, allowing navigation at low speeds in full electric passing automatically in diesel, when power is required at the throttle, recharging the battery pack of propulsion on board. Vizenello combines tradition with new technologies and are certainly redefining the Venetian shipbuilding.

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Cantiere Motonautico San Pietro di Castello

This shipyard is another family owned and operated shipyard but what is interesting about the space is that is located on a historical site where shipbuilding has been going on since 1800. As well as being directly next to The Arsneale, (at one time the biggest shipyard in the world) creates for an awesome experience where history meets future. Over the years and decades, the shipyard has gradually evolved to take the current appearance. In recent years, starting from the second half of the ’80s it has specialized in the construction of typical Venetian motorboats including taxi boats, Venetian lagoon boats and the newest Carabinieri boats (which are the coolest designs in the lagoon).

The shipyard employs many skilled carpenters and ship builders. Guided first by founder Franco Narduzzi who took over the property now his sons and daughters have continued to honor his tradition of Venetian boatbuilding. They build boats exclusively in wood or fiberglass and combined. At this shipyard due to the diversity of requests they really go the distance on how a boat can perform. As well since their shipyard’s owner is a famed speed boat racer, he loves creating faster, more efficient boats. Whether you are looking for a unique taxi boat or a faster boat you will find yourself in good hands here.

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Cantiere Motonautico Serenella

Perhaps the most famous shipyard in Venice when anyone thinks about taxi boats. The shipyard was created by Elio Salvagno with two partners. Their classic taxi boats are world famous and have come to signify the singular design of taxi boats that we see today throughout Venice. Taxi Boats built by Serenella are prized by Venetian taxi drivers and a badge of honor for any driver who gets to drive one in Venice. But even more valued is having one built by the late great Elio Salvagno himself. Known for their unique and singular designs that have seen their boats ordered throughout the world, they are true masters of personalizing all details. They offer a wide range of Taxi styles that can be catered for any use as a tender, as an open boat, a convertible taxi workboat, luxury taxi boats with elegant cabins. They are Masters of Fine woodwork and work with fiberglass. No matter what boat you order from Cantiere Motonautico Sernella you will be collecting a bit of Venetian luxury on the water.

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