Virtuoso Traveler 2018 February Our Top Tips for Venice with Kids

Our Top Tips for Venice with Kids

Venice’s Grand Canal. 
Venice’s Grand Canal. 
Photo by Dietermeyrl/Getty Images
For family fun and cultural immersion, the “Floating City” makes a serious splash.

Bringing your family to Venice is a guaranteed memory of a lifetime, and it starts the moment you and yours first glimpse the Grand Canal. “With such a rich history, so much character, and those glittering ‘streets’ of water, it’s a place that kids especially don’t forget,” says Laurel Perry, a Virtuoso travel advisor from Clearwater, Florida, who lives half the year in Italy with her husband and three children. Two to three nights are plenty, but the key is to have a plan. For families, here’s an approach that won’t leave you screaming “Mamma mia!”
 

The Piazza San Marco.
The Piazza San Marco.
Photo by Robert Zehetmayer/Alamy

Stir Some Excitement

Since anticipation is half the joy of travel, build enthusiasm at home with stories and books about the magical water world. For younger children, pick up This is Venice, a classic picture book that introduces the major sites. Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Venice follows a 9-year-old and her dachshund as they tour museums, shop for masks, and ride a gondola. Daughter of Venice is a historical novel set in 1592 for young adult readers.

Seek Perspective

Venice covers six neighborhoods, or sestieri, though visitors typically stick to three or four. In the center of Piazza San Marco, take the elevator to the top of Saint Mark’s bell tower, the Campanile, for a panoramic overview from the outdoor loggia. Dorsoduro, across the Accademia Bridge, is chic and entertaining, and home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of art in Mrs. Guggenheim’s former palazzo. Featuring colorful Calder mobiles and fantastical Dalí dreamscapes, the gallery is irresistible, even for short attention spans. Farther along the Grand Canal is the sixteenth-century Rialto Bridge, with its countless souvenir shops, pizza stands, and Instagram possibilities. In Cannaregio, stroll the narrow lanes of Il Ghetto, the storied Jewish precinct made famous by Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (hey, extra credit!).

Alexander Calder’s Arc of Petals at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Alexander Calder’s Arc of Petals at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Lose Yourself

“Getting lost happens to everyone in Venice, so enjoy the adventure,” says Perry. Keep a close eye on the little ones, but consider letting older children take the lead, particularly between San Marco and Rialto (arrows pointing to both landmarks are everywhere). It’s wise to snap phone pics to remember key turns, though it’s hard to get too far off track on an island this compact. “Venezia is all about interesting sidetracks – tucked-away shops, hidden bridges, tiny neighborhood trattorias,” Perry notes. “You want kids to go, ‘Where the heck are we? This is fun!’” One tip: Have children “collect” sightings of winged lions, the ancient symbol of the city – they’re mounted, painted, and carved all over town.

Date Night

Nothing beats Venice after dark for romance, with moonlight rippling off the water and endless canals to stroll. Harry’s Bar is where Hitchcock and Hemingway sipped the evenings away, and it somehow still feels like a find. Afterward, there’s no grander place on earth to take in an opera or dance performance than the landmark Teatro La Fenice. The gilded ceiling alone is worthy of a standing ovation.

Venice’s feline finds include the city’s carved wing lions. 
Venice’s feline finds include the city’s carved wing lions. 
Photo by Oottoo/Getty Images

Hit the Water

Venice has 177 canals, splitting the city into 118 separate islands. It’s impossible to experience the place without hopping on a boat. You’ll feel like a local on the public water-buses known as vaporetti, though it’s worth noting that they can be hot and crowded. Private water taxis aren’t cheap, but they almost double as guided tours since most drivers will point out the sights. The ultimate thrill, of course, is a gondola ride, but buyer beware, Perry advises: A popular bait-and-switch is for a charismatic pitchman to lure you into the vessel, only to pass you off to someone less experienced, whose personality and language skills aren’t as great for kids. “It’s better to have your travel advisor book a gondola with a city tour – perhaps even a spooky ghost tour of ‘haunted’ sites – in advance to avoid that common but expensive mistake,” she says.

Get Out of Town

The nearby island of Murano is a world unto itself, with a thousand-year-old glassblowing heritage (and, at some shops, pressured sales spiels nearly as old – just walk away). The Murano Glass Museum there tends to be a hit with teens. Venice’s classic seaside resort, the Lido, is a narrow, seven-mile-long barrier island just south of the city. Bikes are the ride of choice, and families love pedaling along the seafront promenade, or lungomare. Just west of Venice, off-the-tourist-path Villa Pisani has what some consider to be the world’s most challenging garden maze – a trip highlight for many families.

Venice: The Details

Stay

Each of Virtuoso’s ten hotels in the city will make your family feel at home, including this worthy option: With its own private dock off Saint Mark’s, Baglioni Hotel Luna is an oasis from the bustling city. Its views to San Giorgio Island and the San Marco Basin are among Venice’s most romantic, but young ones are also well cared for. A weekend family package in the Goldoni Family Suite (for up to two adults and two children) includes tickets for the Natural History Museum and the Peggy Guggenheim Kids’ Experience. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily for two and a $100 dining credit.

Go

Abercrombie & Kent’s ten-day family tour of Italy, limited to 24 guests, spends two days in Venice to take in Saint Mark’s Basilica, the medieval Doge’s Palace, and Murano’s glassworks. Additional highlights include battling Roman gladiators in mock combat and crafting handmade pasta in Bologna.

Cruise

Princess Cruises’ 13-day Classic Italy cruise-tour commences with a two-night stay in Venice and a guided half-day walking tour of the city. Following overnights in Florence and Rome, board the Crown Princess for stops in Salerno, Montenegro, and Greece. The 3,080-passenger ship recently reimagined its facilities for kids and teens, with dance classes, competitions, an onboard beach house, and plenty of mocktails. Guests ages 18 to 20 are invited to Club 1820 (no parents, no siblings, please), where a secret handshake is needed to get in.

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