Friday 24 July 2015

Paris to Venice with Kids Part 2: Things we Loved in Venice

Basically, we fell in love with Venice.

We arrived on the overnight train from Paris at about nine in the morning. The train crosses the water on the tiniest strip of land and you are so surrounded by water that you feel you must really be on a boat after all. We'd hit our holiday stride by the time we time we got to Venice and were all feeling pretty relaxed and excited, but I still think we were surprised but how much we all loved the city.

Here are a few things that made it for us...

Our Apartment

We loved our apartment for its view of the canal and its quiet street but most of all we loved the location. It was tucked away in the Dorsoduro district in an area that you probably wouldn't spend much time in unless you were staying there. We loved the little bakery on our road, the bar around the corner opposite one of the fruit and veg boat sellers, the square where we could sit in the sun and have breakfast and once we got our bearings we found it pretty easy to get everywhere we wanted to go.
My tip would be stay somewhere quieter and get to know it. Venice is surprisingly small so it's easy to reach most areas but you don't want to be staying on any of the main drags. (This is where we stayed.)

 Our little street - Calle Lunga St Barnaba

Breakfast in our local square... which brings me on to...

The Food
Venice gets a bad press for food which I think is why we did lots of research of places we wanted to go before we left the UK. We used the list of bars at the back of the Polpo Restaurant cookbook and Skye McAlpine's blog as our main sources of information and when we ate out we ate very very well.
I've already touched on our spritz habit in a previous post - but in a nutshell we ate in bars a lot. We ended up choosing cicheti from the counters at bars at least once a day, either as specific destination for one of our meals or just to fuel us on our sightseeing. The ones we loved most were Cantina do Mori at the Rialto market (a challenge to locate but worth it), our great local bar Osteria ai Pugni, Caffe Rosso on Campo Sta Margherita for huge sandwiches and great coffee and the two places within 10 yards of each other, opposite a gondola workshop in Zattere - Cantinone–giĆ  Schiavi and Osteria al Squero.
Other places we loved were:
40 Ladroni - we had lunch here on Easter Sunday, we booked (or at least we thought we'd booked), the place was packed when we arrived and they didn't seem to know about our booking - they slightly grumpily fitted us in but the experience went up hill from there. For about €60 all-in we had a fantastic family meal including a bottle of prosecco! Pasta, shrimps and polenta - all delicious. Kind of wish we'd gone there again.
Ca D'Oro all Vedova - another lunch spot. We had the meatballs here (as they were an inspiration to Polpo founder Russell Norman we had to try them) and to be honest they really were as good as the hype.

Birraria la Corte - for children pleasing pizza at a very good price - I also loved their cheese ball thingys (pictured) it's more expensive to sit outside but the upside is the kids get to run around in the huge square.

And of course Gelato - gelato everyday. It's compulsory on an Italian holiday isn't it!? We tried to keep an audit of our favourites but really they were all good.

Meandering by foot

We didn't really attempt to DO much with the children - we just enjoyed exploring.
When we were on foot we generally had a destination in mind (normally a lunch or supper spot) but we tried not to hurry and we also did our fair amount of bribing with gelato stops to keep the children going when they were flagging.
We played various games too - starting out with counting how many bridges we crossed... we lost count after about day 3.

This was bridge number 13 on day two I think. 

We also found spotting animals everywhere was quite good...

I made a googlemap before we went which had a couple of playground locations on along with restaurants and other things on so that we could wander aimlessly but also find places near to where we found ourselves if you know what I mean. It sort-of worked (saved maps on google aren't brilliant on phone unfortunately) and it meant we found playgrounds when we needed them...

...and we looked out for all the different types of boats we could find; ambulance, police, refuse, fire brigade etc. I think we ticked off every kind, even the DHL one.

And of course we stopped on nearly every bridge, just to hang out...

Exploring by boat

Probably our biggest expense after our accommodation & food was on boats. We had to have a gondola ride, it was the one thing that the children were really dying to do. We chose to hire a gondola from very near our apartment and we got to see our digs from the canal. It was perfect and peaceful and we all loved it. Unless you are desperate to see the underside of the Bridge of Sighs then I'd highly recommend doing a gondola trip away from St Marks Square.
We also bought Vaporetto (water bus) tickets which although they are crazily expensive (We got 48 hour passes which were 30€ each - including for Coco) were worth it. You can cover a lot more ground - both within Venice and getting out to the other islands, we went to Burano and to the Lido. They are a lot of fun too once you get used to the crowds and the bossy boat conductors. Being able to hop on a boat even for one stop often saved tired little legs.
The one thing that we meant to do but didn't get around to was taking the gondola ferry - it only costs 2€ and there are a few around - the one we were intending to try was from the Rilato market but time got the better of us.

Coco spotting our apartment from the gondola...

Views from the vaporetto...

Macaco Tours

I'm not sure how I found this little kids tour company called Macaco Tour but we had a brilliant morning exploring Venice with a lovely young guide who created a treasure hunt for the children. For 35€ we all got to see another area of the city at our children's pace and to find some wonderful hidden treasures. I would highly recommend this company - they were great and I think I'll always try to look for this kind of thing in other cities now too.
Coco loved it (and got quite competitive towards the other little boy who was doing the tour with us) and it really opened her eyes to some of Venice's history in a much more exciting way than just reading it from a book...

Quirky Books

...Which brings me onto the two books that we bought in the bookshop at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Both these guide books for children helped us to engage Coco and Henry - Venice is so much about its history and uniqueness and yet the children really have very little context within which they can appreciate either of those things. Both of the books helped us in finding little spots that were of more interest to them.
A kids guide to Venice by Alberta Garini
Venice for Kids - a guide with Pimpa

The Lido & Burano

Doing day trips from Venice was great - the children really loved our day at the Lido in particular. We took a picnic and just sat on the beach pretty much all day. After a few days of lots of walking and city stuff we all appreciated having a low key day. I think we were quite ambitious to have such a city based holiday - it worked, but only because we didn't rush and we had calm quite days where we really didn't do much at all.

And the best part of not rushing around 'doing' everything is that we'll definitely have to go back.

For Part 1 of our trip to Paris and Venice by train from London - click here. I had great intentions of blogging more about our holiday, of course I haven't written half the posts I hoped to - but as my lovely friend Flora is heading off to Venice over the holidays I thought it was better late than never to do this round up...! Have a great trip Flora!

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