We flew with the low cost airline Ryanair from the UK to Venice Treviso Airport. Apart from their luggage policy of 15kg per person, which cannot be pooled, we were impressed with the airline. The plane landed and took off on time, the aircraft was modern, clean and comfortable and the crew were helpful and friendly.
Treviso Airport though is 30km north of Venice. It is a tiny little airport - we queued outside, close to the runway to go through passport control. Although small, it has everything you need and is fine. When you are leaving, do not go through security until as late as possible, as there is not much to do - no restaurant etc.. There is a nice place to eat before securit - spend your time here.
When we arrived in Venice we picked up a hire car as we travelled on to Verona and the lakes. There is however a regular coach service linking Treviso airport to Venice - Piazzale Roma. We took this coach back to the airport on our departure. It was excellent. The journey takes 40 minutes and costs 6 Euros in a big, comfy, air-conditioned coach.
Venice is really hundreds of islands in a lagoon connected by bridges. No cars are allowed in the city proper - this is a real pedestrian city.
We left our hire car at Mestre station and caught the train over the water to the city. We took a water taxi from outside the station - what an introduction to this watery place! It cost us 60 Euros to get to our hotel on the lagoon - it was fantastic. Like having your own private speedboat - we loved it so much we splashed out when leaving Venice and got a water taxi to Piazzale Roma.
The Grand Canal is Venice's 2 mile main street. Water buses (vaporetto) go up and down the Grand Canal and to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Lines 1 and 82 go up and down the Grand Canal with great views of the palazzos. The circle lines go all around Venice, with stops along the way. Take a vaporetto at least once - you will dodge gondolas and delivery boats and cruise through 1,000 years of history.
We bought 24 hour passes for the vaporettos - I thought they were definitely value for money. We used line 1 and also went to and from Murano.
A tip if you do go on the vaporetto - always try and get a seat at the front - if you sit in the main section, you don't get a great view. We rode the full length of the Grand Canal, then when everyone got off at the last stop, got straight back on for front row seats.
Gondola rides last about 35 minutes. Night time or just before sunset is the most magical time to go. They hold 6 people plus the gondolier. This is a must do. Gondolas are touristy and over priced, but also a fabulous way to see the hidden corners of this unique city.
We took a gondola ride around the smaller canals - the Grand Canal is the same view as the vaporetto. Our gondolier was chatty and friendly and told us all sorts of interesting snippets about his unusal and fascinating job. We went after 7pm and paid 100 Euros for 35 minutes. It is cheaper in the day time - the same ride costs about 80 Euros.
Aside from boats the only way to explore Venice is by walking and losing yourself repeatedly. The city wasn't built to make sense to those on foot, but rather to those plying the canals. We navigated many twisting streets whose names changed constantly and did not appear on any map. Getting lost though is part of the fun.