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Two Days in Venice (with or without Kids)

"When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become- incredibly, but quite simply- my address." – Marcel Proust


The popularity of Venice and the number of tourists always makes me question another stopover. But each time I go, I am so very happy I did. Its mix of Byzantine, Islamic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic influences make it one of the most beautiful, historically significant, and romantic cities in the world; the place is truly magical, tourists or not.


Venice played a vital role in the cultural and economic development of Europe and has a long and fascinating history. Venice’s strategic location and powerful navy made it a major force in the Mediterranean trade for many decades. Its cosmopolitan atmosphere inspired many great philosophers, explorers, composers, and poets such as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Lord Byron, and Ernest Hemingway. Its existence is almost incredible, and its beauty beyond compare. It is one of my favorite places in the world.

"No one forgets the first glimpse of Venice. Whether arriving by plane, boat, train, or car, there is that startling moment when one looks across the waves and finds what should not be there - stone towers, rich churches, and packed buildings rising out of the sea…. “- Thomas Madden



Tips for visiting Venice:

  • Plan on walking…a lot. Be sure to take advantage of the early mornings before most tourists are out and the deliveries are just starting to wander the narrow pathways and discover new views. At sunrise and sunset, the city is bathed in a soft, ethereal light called the “golden hour” that makes the city glimmer. Another good time to shoot photos is during “blue hour” when the sun is just below the horizon. But truly, there is no bad time to capture this vibrant city. For a schedule of golden hour: https://sunsetsunrisetime.com/golden-hour/venice_(italy)

  • Put the map away and wander. Don’t hesitate to veer off the crowded path- so what if you get a little lost? You might find a treasure.

  • Look up! The architecture and colors are stunning.

  • Listen. The sounds of Venice (without motors) are worth noting- water lapping, gondoliers singing, ladies gossiping while they hang their wash high above your head, doors shutting, boats clanging as they unload their wares, delivery people hauling goods up and down the stairs of the bridges- it is a true delight.

  • Do a little research on restaurants- don’t get so “hangry” you feel the need to stop at one of the places with pictures on the menu. Steer away from the crowds!

  • Do take a water taxi from the airport to your hotel- it will run you $100+ and is worth every penny. It will allow you to get a feel for the city as you pass by its famous landmarks.

  • Check on the aqua alta schedule before you go- the MOSE project has helped, but sometimes the water is significant enough to merit galoshes or shoe covers.

  • Don’t go in August (I do recommend avoiding the summer months, if at all possible. Over the past few years, I have spent several Thanksgivings and wintertime visits in Venice- it is rainy and chilly, as one would expect, but it feels like a more authentic experience without so many other people).

  • Remember that people live here- it is a working, breathing city.

  • Take some cash- not all of the custom shops take cards

  • The moss on the steps is VERY slippery; you do not want to take a swim in the canals, so be forewarned.

  • Do not sit on a bridge- it is considered obstructing the path and not allowed.

  • Skip the pizza and stick with the seafood and cicchetti Venice is known for.

  • Don’t eat in San Marc’s square unless you are willing and able to pay the price (you are paying for the view and the privilege of sitting here, and often listening to the dueling pianos- but don’t say you weren’t warned when the bill comes).

  • Unless you are intending to spend a day in Murano or Burano, two days is often enough to see the city.


What to do in Venice: Guggenheim Museum features works by artists such as Picasso and Warhol, as well as a great collection of modern and contemporary art. The house itself is a beautiful icon with doors that open right onto the canal.


One of my favorite photo spots (I challenge you NOT to take a photo from here) is the Academia Bridge, a built in 1854 and designed by the famous architect, Giovanni Antonio Selva.


Doge's Palace, one of the city's most famous landmarks. I highly recommend the Secret Passages tour, especially if you have kids with you. It will take you to some of the hidden corners of the palace and give you a glimpse into the lives of the city's rulers. The palace is home to some of the city's most important historical and cultural treasures, including works by Tintoretto and Veronese. St. Mark's Basilica, one of the city's most beautiful and iconic landmarks (and also the most crowded). If you have more than two days, visit the beautiful island of Murano, known for its glass-blowing tradition. Take a tour of one of the glass factories and see how these intricate pieces are made.

Rialto Fish Market – a bustling atmosphere and delicious seafood. The market is open late and offers a variety of fresh catches, including squid, mussels, and of course, Venetian specialties like fritto misto and sarde in saor. If you are with kids who have never been to a seafood market, pictures of their eyeballs are as fun as capturing the scenery!

Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogana (both part of the Pinault collection) have rotating exhibits often of stellar quality. Galleria della Accademia- houses all of the important painters Titian, Canaletto, Bellini, Bosch, Tiepolo

Naval museum (Museo Storico Navale) illustrates how the city's waterways are central to its identity. It houses gondolas and antique ships, port dioramas and naval artillery, artifacts and memorabilia.


There are many other, smaller and less touristy sites to see, as well. I would love to help you put together an itinerary suited to your specific interests.



Where to stay in Venice: Venice has no shortage of luxurious hotels, many of which are in historic palazzi, full of op

ulent glass and stunning architecture. Many have rooftops, acclaimed restaurants, private transportation via boat, and gorgeous views. There are also plenty of hotels that are full of charm and local color that will not break the bank. I would love to help you put an itinerary together based on your travel needs. Hotel Gritti Palace: This gorgeous hotel is a stunning 15th century palazzo located on the Grand Canal with breathtaking views of the city. The Gritti Palace is a true luxury hotel, with elegant rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a private boat service to transport guests around the city.

Perks:

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability • Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability • Daily Breakfast for 2 • Food & Beverage or Spa Credit (value varies by property) • Complimentary Wi-Fi


Hotel Cipriani: This luxurious hotel is located on the Giudecca (they provide a boat to get back and forth). It is known for its lavish amenities and top-notch service. The hotel features a private beach, a swimming pool, and a beautiful garden, as well as a spa and fitness center. Perks: - A-la-carte breakfast for 2 daily - Complimentary WI-FI access

Hotel Flora: A charming, family run hotel with a beautiful garden terrace where breakfast and tea and cocktails are served. The hotel also has a spa and fitness center.


Where and what to eat in Venice

Before you go, you might make a dinner reservation or two.

Al Covo and La Zucca- (an unusual vegetarian option in Venice) are two interesting options that I like both for the food and the atmosphere.

Pasticceria Chiusso & Pasticceria Italo Didovich, Gelateria Nico, Gelateria il Doge, Gelato di Natura - San Giacomo dell'Orio are great stops while you wander (with kids or without)


Make sure to take advantage of Venice’s cicchetti culture (small bite-sized treats, similar to tapas, typically served with a cocktail) that you can grab as a snack or a meal all over town. Try a few typically Venetian dishes, and don’t miss the seafood… and oh, the pastries!....

  • Seppie in umido made with a combination of sliced squid, onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, oil, salt, and black pepper.

  • Moeche or moleche soft shelled crabs

  • Sarde Saor One of Venice's most traditional dishes- marinated sardines

  • Fegato alla Venezia sliced liver with caramelized onions

  • Bigoli Similar to spaghetti, but thicker with a small hole in the middle.

  • Risi i Bisi (Rice and Fresh Peas)

  • Baccala’ Mantecata One of Venice’s most notable dishes is dried, salted and creamed codfish prepared in olive oil, garlic, parsley.


What to drink in Venice:

  • You will likely see Aperol Spritz everywhere, and in Campo San Stefano, a whole bar devoted to it. It originated in Venice. It is served with prosecco and club soda.

  • Campari Spritz – similar to Aperol, Campari is bitter, and served with prosecco, club soda and olives.


  • A Bellini is another Venitian claim to fame: peach purée and prosecco.

  • Negroni – A rather bitter cocktail prepared with vermouth, gin, and Campari.

  • Limoncello – bright yellow lemon liqueur, delicious after dinner or poured over a gelato.

  • Hugo – A spritz with elderflower liqueur, soda, prosecco and topped with a Hugo mint leaf.

  • Grappa strong alcohol that comes from distilled grape skin, pulp, seeds, and stem remnants from the winegrape pressings. Italy’s national spirit.

  • The best wines from the Veneto region include the fragrant reds, Valpolicella, Bardolino, and the more strong, white Soave.


What to read and watch before you go to Venice:


Donna Leon’s book (and now tv) series

The Merchant of Venice


Kevin Macleod's Grand Tour

The Italian Job

Mr & Mrs Smith



Interesting, historical facts about Venice


March 25th, 421 AD is considered Venice's birthday, the day the Church of San Giacomo, was dedicated.


Venice was built in the 5th century as a small fishing village and a refuge from barbarian invasions. Hundreds of canals were dug into the marsh and fortified with over 10 million oak poles, floated down on the Adriatic Sea from Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro. These wooden poles were driven into the sludge until they hit hard clay, then stones and rocks were wedged into the gaps. On top of the stones, more layers of wood and brick were added to begin a foundation- the weight of the building pushed the pilings farther down into the dirt. Since wood only rots when it is exposed to both water and air, keeping them below the water line where there is no oxygen protected the wood, and the sediment eventually petrified them. Today, there are still pilings that are over 1000 years old.

The Church of Santa Maria della Salute stands on over 1,000,000 pilings.


Venetian houses are built differently from most they're divided into 3 sections, the two internal walls take the weight of the floor above the external walls do nothing except look pretty. This structure allows them to move and sway as needed in this floating city.


What to do in Venice with Kids:

  • Search for the best gelato

  • Let them lead the way and get “lost”

  • Search for a mask to take home or take a mask making class. {Masks in Venice date back to the middle ages. They were used as a social equalizer and doctors also wore the beaked mask to help hide odors of rotting flesh during the plague.) Two shops: The Philospopher’s Stone shop, Tragicomica

  • See if you can find the blue door, the red stone (that ended the plague), Banksy’s Migrant Child (google maps), and the building used to film the Italian Job (it is a firehouse)

  • Taste some of the amazing gelato and pastries as you wander

  • Take a gondola ride (as you can imagine, these are touristy and expensive, and can feel a bit like Disneyland, but also fairytale-like and fun. The skill of the gondoliers is indeed something to experience.)

  • Wander through some of the gardens at the Arsennale (there is also a playground)


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