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Visiting Venice with Young Kids

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 23, 2017

© Stillman Rogers

Age Specific / Kids
Gondolas on the Grand Canal Venice

© Stillman Rogers

There’s something of a fairy-land nature about Venice, where everything is a bit magic. The streets are made of water, the buildings are bright colors, stone-edged windows curve in wavy shapes, women in elaborate Baroque costumes stand in front of fanciful buildings, men propelling boats break into song as they float past — it sometimes seems to kids like a giant fun-house.

While the city is magic for all ages, experiencing so much that’s new can be overwhelming for little kids. Bring them into the fascinating story that’s Venice by giving them some interesting things to look for as you tour.

Venice, Italy Statue

© Stillman Rogers

Lions are everywhere — carved over doorways, pictured on flags, in pairs guarding entrances, standing atop pillars, pictured in paintings. Make finding them a treasure hunt and see who can spot the most. Begin by taking pictures of little kids sitting on the well-worn lion in the little square beside St Mark’s Basilica (at the side farthest from the water). Generations of Venetian and visiting children have been pictured there.

A walk around the vast square will turn up a good start for their collection — one on the clock tower, one high on a pillar overlooking the Grand Canal, more on the Doge’s Palace and Basilica. Scarves and banners in the souvenir stands add to the count. With that as a head-start, go in any direction and they’re sure to spot more. A lion with wings is the symbol of St. Mark, Venice’s patron saint, and older kids may be interested to learn they can tell whether Venice was at war or at peace when the winged lion was carved. If it holds an open book under its paw, they were at peace. The book is closed when Venice was at war.

Italy, Venice, S. Polo, mask shop

© Stillman Rogers

Kids will be fascinated by the masks they see everywhere, from feathered and sequined or harlequin eye-masks to full-face clowns and masks with bird-like bills. You’ll see them in shop windows and souvenir stands, but a visit to a mask-maker will fascinate kids. They can watch as the ornate masks are painted and decorated. Look in the narrow streets of San Polo, beyond Rialto Bridge, for studios like TragiComica, where there are often mask-makers at work and the staff is especially child-friendly. Masks are a good souvenir and light to carry. At Ca’ Macana, near Campo San Barnaba in Dorsoduro, kids can really get into mask-making and paint their own to take home. You’ll need to reserve ahead for a class.

Italy, Venice, Albergo del Sole, Riva Malcanton, flag of lion of St Mark

© Stillman Rogers

While in Campo San Barnaba, don’t miss Signor Blum, a corner shop filled with beautiful wooden puzzles. Most of these colorful creations have larger interlocking pieces designed as toys, but smaller animals and charming rows of Venetian houses make attractive decorator pieces — also easy to carry home. Moored just outside is a little floating grocery store piled with fruits and vegetables, an only-in-Venice sight our kids loved. It started them on a lively contest to find other unusual uses for boats — including a hearse, an ambulance and a gondola carrying a wedding party.

A trip by Vaporetto to the island of Murano is an adventure of its own, and once there children can watch glass-blowers turn lumps of bright-colored molten glass into beautiful goblets, dishes and vases. You can depend on Venice to provide endless entertainment for kids.

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