Famed as the city of love and as one of the most romantic places in the world, Venice is definitely bucket list material. We, crazy in love couple that we are, chose to visit recently. With the children. And my dad.
So, what do you do in Venice with the kids? Initially Venice may not seem like the kind of place you could be bothered to bring children. Museums, expensive restaurants, gondolas and tons of tourists. For those who find a trip to the supermarket with kids challenging, it might seem like a particularly dumb idea.
But you know what? It was great. We had the best day of our holiday that day.
Think for a minute about what children like – water, boats, ice-cream, discovery, adventure and pizza. It is all right there in Venice.
- Start by buying a day ticket for the ferry (vaporetto). It costs €20 per person (under 6s go free), which may seem a bit steep but it saves you a lot of waking. While Venice is a gorgeous city to walk in, there are a lot of steps, so if you have a buggy or small children with you, the vaporetto is by far the easier option. Travelling by boat on the number 2 line along the Grand Canal you get a fantastic view of the buidings, gondolas, bridges and general ambience of the city. Your ticket allows you to travel all day, getting on and off as much as you like. Our children loved it and it was a great way to distract them on the couple of occasions when one or other of them was starting to get crabby.
- Point out the interesting (for the children) things you see. Ours were fascinated by the strange shapes of some of the windows, the fish-shaped door knobs, the huge range of boats travelling along the canals, the doors that opened straight onto the canals and the teeny-tiny bridges across narrow canals.
- Eat an icecream or two. There are gelaterias (icecream parlours) everywhere. We were on the lookout for an icecream when we happened to come across Gelateria Il Doge in the San Polo area of the city. There was a big sign outside telling us it was the best icecream in Venice. It was certainly really tasty, and at €1.50 per scoop or €2.50 for two scoops, not at all expensive.
- Wander and explore. Venice is a maze of narrow lanes and alleyways. Very many are stuffed with tiny boutiques, cafes and delicatessen. Others are residential. Make an adventure out of wandering and letting the children choose whether you take a left or right turn at each junction. You are guaranteed to have fun. And if you come to a dead end, no problem. Start afresh. It is just like a maze.
- Sit by a canal and watch. This might sound a little dangerous, and of course you need to decide for yourself and your children whether this will work. We found a few places where there were broad, shallow steps down to the water of the canal and chose those spaces to sit and watch. The boys were entralled by the gondoliers and the gondolas themselves but also by the delivery boats bringing goods to shops and collecting food from the market.
- Have a pizza. You cannot avoid pizza. It is everywhere. The problem is trying to decide where to stop and which topping to choose. We scoffed ours too quickly to get a photo of it, but we bought it by the slice in a little bakery off the food market near the Rialto Bridge. We sat along the canal with the buzz of the market behind us and soaked up Venice life.
- Let the children pick a souvenir, but steer them away from the keyrings and t-shirts. There are beautiful colourful glass figures of animals and birds to be had for a few euro apiece. Blank Venetian masks that you can paint yourself are on sale for €2 each at the market just across the Rialto Bridge, heading for San Polo. At the canal front at St. Mark’s Square and along past the Bridge of Sighs there are stalls too, so as you take in the historic surroundings, the children can be distracted with postcards, masks and fans.