Think city break and you’ll no doubt conjure up images of romantic restaurants, quiet tree lined squares and intimate cocktail bars – not the perfect ingredients for a getaway with children. It could even be a recipe for disaster but here’s what we loved and learnt from our trip to Venice with our girls.
First off, our friends were quite surprised that we were taking the children to Venice but as a busy family we really do value our time together. There’s also an assumption that city trips are something only adults will enjoy, but if you scratch below the surface every destination has something to offer all ages. Just be prepared to go with the flow and accept that you’re more likely to be enjoying a mouth-watering slice of pizza than dining out at a fancy Michelin star restaurant and you’ll be fine.
Loved living like a local
We chose to stay in an Airbnb apartment in the Jewish quarter of the city called Cannaregio. This seemed like a no-brainer as it gave us so much more flexibility to come and go as we pleased and more space than your average Venetian hotel room. Besides which, even for a short stay it’s such an experience to waft around the fruit and vegetable markets for your supplies and feel like one of the locals.
Loved pushing the boat out
We might not make it back to Venice, so we decided we’d pushed the boat out – quite literally! We arrived by water taxi which is not a cheap option (80 euro return) but is a beautiful way to see the absolute majesty of the city on arrival and feel like a film star! Obviously, we had to take a gondola ride around the canals and again this doesn’t come cheap either (81 euro) – but it’s Venice you simply must do it if you can.
Learnt to avoid the tourist must do
We felt compelled to visit the world-famous Caffé Florian in St Mark’s square. Sadly, this was a terrible disappointment as they have a room that’s clearly ‘reserved’ for those with children and it was grotty to say the least. We paid 32 euros for our drinks and the cappuccino was awful as were the toilets and the queue. A shame that they live off their reputation but have such a poor attitude to welcoming families.
Loved seeing the sites
We hit many of the main sites which were surprisingly quiet in February – so much so our girls were spinning cartwheels in the Doge’s Palace around the main halls! New and impressive is the luxury shopping centrewhich as absolutely stunning with amazing views over the canals and well worth a browse – though you may need deep pockets.
Learnt to go with the flow
At home – like all sensible mums and dads – we limit the kids’ treats but for a holiday we tend to relax the rules. With so much delicious gelato and pizza on every corner we did resort to a little bribery to help things run smoothly. Whilst we loved the Peggy Guggenheim museum the girls did get a bit bored but that’s to be expected and these ‘more grown up trips’ are ideal for teaching a little bit of give and take and patience as to what everyone wants to do and see.
We walked on average 15,000 steps a day and no doubt walked off some of the calories we consumed. Of course, it does help that in Venice there are no cars, bikes or ambulances and so it’s relatively peaceful when you wander off the beaten track. There’s so much to see at every turn another bustling square, another crumbling building or beautiful bridge and canal.
In summary Venice is everything we imagined it would be – a truly magical place that should be on everyone’s bucket list.