An extraordinary adventure above water.
The right suggestions for a family-tailored trip of adventure, explorations, and magic.
Every traveller’s dream, Venice is the most charming city in the world: steamboats to catch, small bridges and streets to be lost in, the noise of the steps in the silent alleys between houses and wonderful buildings.
Despite being splendid and unique, it’s not a city that families can easily visit. Many parents give up or postpone the trip scared by the steps non suitable for strollers, by all year around crowd and by the long walks.
And yet, Venice is always worth the visit, just organise in advance a different itinerary according to the age.
Although we would like to avoid the most touristic routes, there are places in Venice that cannot be missed out, starting from the postcard, San Marco square, with the Torre dell’Orologio, Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica with its golden mosaics. The entrance is free, but queues can be very long. Don’t be discouraged and climb up to the Loggia (admission with fee) to enjoy a wonderful sight.
Between San Marco and Campo San Polo, the largest squares in Venice, there is Rialto and at its feet the fish market, where Venetians outnumber tourists. Going down south from Rialto towards Campo Manin you can admire the amazing spiral staircase of Palazzo Contarini of Bovolo (Bovolo means snail/spiral in Venetian).
A gem not to be missed, not far from San Marco and Rialto, is the Liberia Acqua Alta, a timeless and special corner, where old books - victims of high water - have been turned into work of arts: worth a stop.
Playing at getting lost and finding the way again
The best way to discover Venice is to escape the usual routes and take the time to explore the most unknown places. In San Marco district, that along with San Polo is the most ancient part of the city, the endless game of getting lost and finding the way again can start, entering streets with no way out, looking for the bridge on the stream without using the map, since it’s useless here (Google Maps too) due to the subtle and intricated venetian topography.
Less crowded than San Marco is Cannaregio where the Jewish ghetto is, with its calm water canals and houses with windows at the same level of the water. Here, not far from the station, there’s an incredible place: the Giardino Mistico, that host a garden and the orchard of “the lost tastes”, with 40 different varieties of fruit trees.
To escape the most touristic itineraries, the best option is Giudecca Island, authentic and less crowded. Besides, once a year you can reach it by walking from Venice thanks to the boats bridge set-up during the Festa del Redentore.
Next to Giudecca, San Giorgio Island offers a unique experience: the climb to the belltower of the Basilica of San Giorgio, equipped with a lift, that allows people to admire Venice from a different point of view, at 75 metres of height, with a special vista on the whole lagoon.
In Dorsoduro district, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni hosts the Guggenheim collection, that displays the main masters of the figurative art of the XX century. The house-museum of Peggy Guggenheim even organises Kids Days, every Sunday, for children from 4 to 10 years old, to “draw the little visitors near modern and contemporary art in an engaging way”.
For parents and older children, the M9, at Mestre, is a 20th century museum inaugurated in 2018 not to be missed. An architectural treasure chest that contains the most effervescent and engaging story of the Italian twentieth century, including entertainment, services, and lots and lots of immersive technology.
In the Fondaco dei Turchi you can visit the Natural History Museum, filled with intriguing treasures like the skeleton of a big dinosaur or the fossils collection, while lovers of ships models, nautical charts, and different treasures of the Serenissima cannot skip the Naval History Museum.
The Foundation of Venetians Civic museums organises the initiative “Families at the museum”: recreational and educational activities designed to stimulate the curiosity of children from 5 to 12 years old. Every month there’s an offer in a different museum, with diverse and free activities to enjoy museums naturally and joyfully!
For further info: www.visitmuve.it/it/servizi-educativi/famiglie-al-museo
Spaces for playing
Not only small bridges, canals, and narrow alleys: in Venice there are also open spaces where children can run and play safely. First, fields like the Campo Santa Margherita or Campo San Geremia, next to the station, with the Savorgnan playground. Or the Giardini of Sant’Elena and the gardens of the Biennale, with equipped playgrounds. In this area, near Giardini Napoleonici, the small cafe situated inside the Serra in the gardens (an ancient Fioriera full of flowers and plants) is the right place to have lunch or an unusual snack: it’s called Caffè La serra and it’s a meeting place and an educational space. It offers sandwiches and cakes, inside tables and outside tables in the garden.
Among the most Venetians fields there is Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, which offers shade, a drinking fountain, and a community garden. Here children reign supreme: in the afternoons after the school, they go there and play hide and seek, football, with scooters (the most used means of transportation of venetians children).
By ferry boat towards the islands
There are plenty of islands in the lagoon that are worth a visit, starting from Murano, to find out all the secrets about glassmaking. The most picturesque of them all? Burano, no doubts, with its colourful houses and the crooked belltower. Among the attractions to visit there is Casa Bepi, a multicolour house owned by Bepi Suà, an old local artist, decorated with geometric figures of all colours.
During spring and summer seasons, moving to the Lido is a very good option: the island, long and narrow, can be covered by bike up to the Oasi delle Dune degli Alberoni. A short break in the beach will make children happy since they can play with the sand while their parents can enjoy a drink with the sunset.
In Venice it’s possible to experiment with unusual and family-friendly ways of visiting.
For example, Macacotour (macacotour.com) organises original experiences like “the treasure hunt for families” – at the discovery of the mysteries and stories revolving around Campo Santa Maria Formosa, “the historic team game” – a challenge among the alleys, small squares, panoramic terraces, and unique means of transportation, or “the game in the boat for families”, that takes place along Canal Grande. The association Best Venice Guides (bestveniceguides.it/kids) as well offers captivating visiting routes, to discover unusual places and classic wonders. An example? “How is Venice built?” is a guided tour thought to explain in a fun way how the city was born, how it developed and how to orient oneself in its magical labyrinths.
The Carnival with children
Colourful and festive, intriguing and evocative: Venice Carnival is one of the most beautiful In the world, and it’s celebrated with a calendar full of events, shows, games, music and masked balls. This year there will be many events during the International Kids' Carnival: from Thursday 1 to Sunday 11, February, fun laboratories, and games both in the historical location of Cà Giustinian in Venice and in Mestre, with a whole new section dedicated to experimental music for older kids.
A guide and a map
Discovering places and museums of the city along with the adorable, red-spotted little dog is a completely different thing! The guide "Pimpa Goes to Venice", written by Altan, is an exploration route with info, games, and curiosity (Franco Panini Editore)
It could be very fun for the little ones to try to be guided by the illustrated Map of Venice (Italy for Kids). It’s a map thought for them, with games, stickers, and 15 ideas of things to be done in the city.
Exploring a wonderful city without a car requires great attention when choosing shoes: the kilometres you will travel will be many! Comfort, of course, but without sacrificing style, since a beautiful city demands appropriate clothes. For children, since first steps to adolescence, the perfect shoes can be found in Primigi shop: bold, very comfortable, light, they will be the perfect companions for exciting days full of adventures and discoveries.
*Written in collaboration with Giovani Genitori