What do you do in Venice when your kids are too old to spend a day looking for lions and too young to be enthralled by a succession of churches and religious art? Here are the places and experiences our teen liked best.
Rent an Apartment
Less expensive than a week in a hotel, and in a location just down the street from Piazza San Marco in the heart of Venice, we lived like locals. Granted it was up several flights of stairs, but it was a great experience and easy to arrange. A bakery on the corner was our go-to place for breakfast breads, and we could make coffee and tea in our kitchen. Or cook dinner if we found something irresistible in the Rialto Market. We became regulars at the little gelato stand around the corner for our last stop at night before climbing to “our house.”
Insider Tour of the Doge’s Palace and San Marco
Instead of standing in long waiting lines and moving along with the crowds in Venice’s two most popular attractions, we reserved a tour with Walks of Italy that took us right past the lines and into some of the most interesting parts of the palace where general tourists can’t go. These included the rooms where prisoners were tried and the dank dark cells they were condemned to, plus a chance to walk across the Bridge of Sighs. Our guide told great stories and pointed out things we never would have noticed without her.
Ride in a Gondola
Yeah, they’ll claim to be mortified and feel like a tourist, but secretly they’ll enjoy it and tell all their friends afterward. Instead of waiting in the lines near San Marco, look for gondoliers in one of the smaller squares. Along with a stretch on the Grand Canal, ask to ride on some of the smaller canals for a back-street look at Venetian life.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Much more fun to look at than Madonnas and suffering saints, if you feel an art interlude is essential to travel in Italy, the art in Peggy Guggenheim’s canal-side villa is colorful, interesting and often playful. Works by Miro, Kandinsky, Picasso, Klee and Dali engage the imagination and make for some great discussions, not to mention speculations on what it’s supposed to represent. The garden was a nice place to sit and rest our feet.
Take a Food Tour
You may be pretty good at reading an Italian menu at home, but Venice has its own distinct cuisine and different names for some of the familiar dishes. To get inside Venice’s food scene and learn the intricacies of ordering cichetti, the delicious little plates that make a perfect lunch or between-meal snack, we met another guide from Walks of Italy. While learning the language of Venetian foods, we toured the Rialto market and sampled goodies from bakeries, restaurants, cafes and food vendors. It was here we discovered the non-alcoholic gingerina, a good choice for teens that looks like an aperitif when parents are having theirs.
You’re bound to do this anyway, so why not make a sport of it and see who can find the way home? We took turns navigating (okay, mostly guessing) which narrow alleyway wouldn’t lead us to a dead-end or to a canal with no bridge across it. In the process of finding our way home, we almost always discovered some charming square, quirky building or unexpected view. And there was always a café to stop at if we needed to cheat and consult a map.