When you think of Venice, Italy what do you imagine?
Beautiful waterways, bridges crossing canals, and charming gondoliers singing Italian songs on iconic boats — right?
What I bet you DON’T imagine is taking one of those beautiful gondola rides with your family . . . and watching a seagull eat an ENTIRE rat in one gigantic gulp.
Well, that happened.
Venice is definitely a must-see, but I have to be honest — it’s pretty dirty, touristy, and crowded. I’m sure locals, however, would say that’s all because of the tourists — and they’d probably be right.
There’s a magical quality to Venice, so I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s not worth a visit. The mere fact that there are no cars in a city of that size was a great thing for the kids to see. And my morning walks were always enchanting, just like the storybook visions of Venice we all have in our minds. (More on that later!)
The Nooks and Crannies of Venice, Italy
It’s very easy to get lost in Venice because there are so many twists, turns, and strange little alleys. You can easily wind up in one area when you were aiming for another. Here’s a short video that will show you some of the odd passageways that are incredibly commonplace. These funny little surprises are my favorite part of this famous city.
Venice, Italy With Kids
Traveling with kids is hard. Really hard.
Worth it? Absolutely. (Ask me on a tough travel day and we’ll see if that answer changes.😆)
The kids thought Venice was cool but once the novelty wore off, they were a little bored. Walking around amazing Italian cities for hours might sound amazing for you or me, but for kids is a whole different story — understandably!
What we found worked best was just to get out there and start walking around. They’d often start out whining, but eventually, they’d forget they were supposed to be bored and they’d start playing some imaginary game with each other. Our best family walks were when we’d look behind us and see the kids just following along, talking to each other like besties, and making up games together. (Let me be clear — our kids do NOT always behave like besties! 😆)
Scott is far better at this than I am, and I think just leaving them alone is a great simple tactic he’s taught me without trying. My mind is always going and it’s hard for me to stay present. Scott is a natural master at staying present and it’s really cool to see it transfer over to the kids in this way.
These simple moments were really some of the best ones of the entire trip. And — unfortunately, for those of us who lean toward type-A personalities — those kinds of moments can’t be planned.
Darn it. 🤣
We hit up several of the main attractions, but could only do so much in a short time. Here are a few of the highlights.
St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square was one of those amazing sights that we had to do quickly because of a few things…heat, kids, heat, me, and heat. The square itself is HUGE, which means in the afternoon on a peak summer day, there’s no shade and it’s incredibly hot.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not at my best when I’m overheated. Or hungry. Or tired. (The biggest understatement in this entire blog series.)
But we made sure we saw it and then went somewhere to cool down. 🤣
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs was built in 1600 and is an enclosed limestone bridge that connects the interrogation rooms of Doge Palace to the prison across the Rio del Palazzo canal. It was said that prisoners sighed over their last views of Venice through the windows of this bridge as they were marched across to their cells.
But if I’m honest, I’m calling BS on that romantic notion. Can you imagine being marched off to a prison cell (during the luxuriously sanitary conditions of 1600!) and heaving a dramatic sigh? I think it could more accurately be called the Bridge of &#$@%!
Today, it’s famous for its picturesque qualities, which is a more believable sentiment I can get behind.
The Rialto Bridge in Venice is the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal but has been reconstructed several times. It was first built as a pontoon bridge in 1173. The current stone bridge is a popular tourist attraction and was completed in 1591, after three years of construction.
It’s definitely a gorgeous sight that boasts incredible views of the Grand Canal.
Lido Beach Outside of Venice
Swimming is a big no-no in historic Venice canals — and for good reason. First, it’s prohibited and you can get a big fine. But more importantly, it’s definitely polluted water. So unless you want to grow a third eyeball, it’s best to get outside of the city to find a place for swimming.
On one of my work days, Scott took the kids out to a town called Lido that (according to the internet!) had perfect beaches for swimming. Beach towels, chairs, and umbrellas are commonly rented on the Italian beaches, and at a pretty low price for the whole day. This was perfect for us as we traveled lightly and didn’t have any towels or beach gear.
The kids came back at the end of the day with stories of swimming, Dad’s incredible sand sculpture skills, and a fun red food truck where they stopped for lunch.
Gondola Ride in Venice
As I mentioned already, we watched a seagull eat a rat — WHOLE — during our gondola ride through Venice.
But you know what’s awesome?
Our kids went on a gondola ride through Venice.
How many American kids get to say that?
The pace of this trip sometimes led me to forget the sheer extraordinary nature of what we were doing. At eight and ten, the significance never sunk in for them, but I know that over time they’ll (hopefully) recognize the novelty of the experience. Eighty-five days away from home, in foreign countries where English was never the primary language, was an incredible experience for them — and us.
All in all, Venice is truly a must-see and definitely amazing. So don’t let my rat-eating-seagull story sway you otherwise.