If you have been to Venice, or have read anything about Venice, you know that there are really only two means of transportation: your own feet, or by boat. There is a very efficient public transportation boat system here, with large boats called Vaporetti (plural). The boats run on specific "lines" with stops along the way, and these lines are published so you can easily figure out which boat line you should get on to go where you want to go.
Unfortunately a Vaporetto (singular) ride is rather expensive. A ticket good for just one hour costs 6.50 Euros. If you were to do that often enough over the course of a few weeks, you'd easily have spent 50-100 Euros just on boat transportation. Fortunately, Venice has a discount card system for locals and others who are here for extended periods of time. If you are a bona-fide resident of Venice, you are eligible for your Carta Venezia at no cost, however, without a residency card, you must pay 40 Euros to obtain the card. Once you have your card, you may then purchase your monthly discounted ticket (an abbionimento) from a local Tabacci for 26 Euros per month. This gives you unlimited Vaporetto rides for the month.
There is, as of January 2008, another advantage to having this discount pass. The ACTV has just launched a new boat line, the number 3, which is open only to those having the Carta Venezia. This boat makes a few less stops up and down the Grand Canal, and will be less crowded, since the masses of tourists won't be on the boat. Some days the Vaporetto is just packed, so this could be a big plus.
Our first week in town we took the required items to the HelloVenezia office located in Piazzale de Roma to apply for our Carta Venezia. Of course, we thought that because we have a years lease, we would get the card for free. Another lesson learned--that doesn't qualify us as "residents". We were happy to take the alternate course of paying the 40 Euros. We needed our passports, a passport size photo and the money. After paying the money, we were given a form to complete. After being duly stamped, we got one copy of the form to keep, and were told to check back in 20 days at the HelloVenezia kiosk by the boat dock to retrieve our permanent card (good for 3 years).
I found the nearest Tabacci to buy my monthly abbonamento, which unfortunately I only got to use twice before my wallet was stolen in Florence, which contained my monthly boat pass along with my copy of the application form! I was now stuck for antoher month of individual boat ride prices, until I received the permanent card. I went back to the HelloVenezia office after my things were stolen to see if they could issue me some temporary replacement, but they said no. Even though they have computer records, there was nothing they would do in the case of lost or stolen tickets. I just chalked this up to just one more item I'd have to learn to cope with.
We checked a few times towards the end of the 20 day wait period but each time were told "Maybe in a week". At the tail end of February our cards were ready, which we now proudly covet! Today we'll buy our March abbonamento, and I am already looking forward to many inexpensive rides on the Grand Canal! And, as you may be expecting, I am not keeping this pass in my wallet. It's in a safe place now along with my passport!