Venice: Bridges, Budgets and Boats

I'm not going to lie to you.

I didn't really love Venice. 

As it's such a popular place to visit, I feel I have to explain/ justify myself somewhat- or I might just come off looking like I'm a total misery*
* although this has been said of me in the past.

If you have small kids and a buggy- then forget going to Venice.  For now. No matter what time of year you go, you will be huffing and puffing your way up and down staircases, folding the buggy/ pushchair approximately every 3 minutes, or lifting it up a set of stairs. You will be trying to stop your toddler plopping into the canals the moment you release them from the buggy and having stop/ start nightmares if you are trying to walk anywhere. Get ready to be apologising for ramming your buggy into strangers heels and forget the idea of actually getting in anywhere. You won't fit.

Venice is also a maze. I managed to lose my 15year old just walking back to our Airbnb from the Coop. Luckily he had the sense to walk back to where we last were, but one wrong labyrinthine turn in a crowd could mean a few heart stopping moments.

Down one of these passageways, someone also tried to steal from my backpack. I'm not a twat, so all that was in there were a pack of value waterproof plasters, a Venice guide (the book kind- not a real one) and a travel cagoule someone once lent me and I accidentally kept. Due to my incredible peripheral vision, mastered after years of parenting, I was able to catch them at it. Which was awkward. And rather unsettling.

I'm really sorry to break it to you, but if you want a decent relaxing break,  then Venice isn't for you. Not unless you go without the kids- and even then I'm dubious how much you will like it.

Now, I can't judge what it's like in the summer as we went in December. I can only envisage what a complete and utter nightmare it might be during busy times.  Whatever I feel about Venice now, having gone in off season, is probably only a fraction of how I may have felt if I was unlucky enough to go in the summer.

On the positive side: your photos will look amazing. Venice is highly photogenic. Only issue is, when you come to upload your pictures, you might not remember where they were taken, as all of Venice looks the same. I found Venice a bit odd. At some points I felt like I was in a Disney set, but with fewer people in fancy dress and not looking so happy to be there.

We went for four days. Which was total overkill. Venice isn't very large. Hence why most people go on a day trip. We arrived and checked in to our very lovely old Fishermans cottage Airbnb by 11am. By 12.30 we had already been through the Rialto Market & fish market, Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco. The girls didn't really love the fish market (hence the holding noses in pic)- so we did move on swiftly.

We were a bit stuck then, as I'd actually planned to do all those things another day.

Prior to visiting we had purchased transport tickets for the waterbus (vaporetto) from VeneziaUnica so we ended up just jumping on a water bus and heading out to the Venice Lido mainly just to sit down for a bit. The trip back was nice, as we got to stay on the water bus most of the way up the Grand Canal, until our stop at San Stae. It's a bit of a headache finding waterbus stops with a machine that allows you to change your printed confirmation into actual useable travelcards, so I had to ask Google after visiting 4 stops. Our nearest one was the Rialto Bridge stop. Find your nearest one here

You might also like to bookmark this handy vaporetto route map.

Transport in Venice can be a little confusing, so let's try and clear that up. To transfer from Venice Marco Polo airport, you are going to either need to get a waterbus (and this has to be the Alilaguna line at an extra price to your waterbus and normal bus pass-15euros one way) or take the normal roadway bus (about 20 mins- again at additional transfer cost on top of your pass of 8 euros one way) or by private water taxi.

On arrival at Marco Polo, we took a prebooked water taxi which cost about 110euros for the six of us to our nearest stop at San Stae, and then opted for the land bus to return to the airport. The land bus is pretty simple, you want to take the public water bus to Piazzale Roma and then the bus station is right in front of you. You will need bus 5 or 35. The buses to Treviso airport are also here.

So, once you have got there, and worked out how to leave...what are you actually going to do with the kids while you are there? I have put some ideas below, but you may want to check out my other post 10 things to do in Venice with children.

You could let them loose to chase the pigeons in San Marco Piazza. It's illegal to feed the pigeons, and please don't be like some parents we saw who seemed to have zero problem letting their children kick the birds.  We could see which kids were likely to turn out badly.

You could also make a number of ice cream and dessert stops.  I would definitely recommend at least using these as bribery to keep children moving.

I highly recommend the frittella con crema which are available at bakeries, or the tiramisu. If you don't go to restaurants and you instead grab slices of pizza, toasts (cheese & ham toasties), ciabattas or chichetti (provided you can squeeze into a bar) then you will be looking at between 4-10 euros per person for snacks. Wine is cheaper than soft drinks and about half the price of orange juice- which seems rather civilised. A few minutes walk from the S. Marcuola vaporetto stop is a wine shop selling wine on tap in plastic litre bottles from 1.90 euro a litre. Which might be worth knowing. 

One of the highlights of the trip for us, was a tour with the remarkably knowledgeable Rita Sartori who pretty much rescued Venice in my eyes. We took a two hour family tour with Rita meeting us near our accommodation and ending the tour near the Teatro La Fenice where I had booked a theatre tour immediately following. I like to keep us on our toes. 

Rita's tour was perfect for the children, showing them how Venice is kept clean, stopping off at a lovely chocolate shop and she had some other hidden gems up her sleeve to keep everyone happy. I won't spoil it for you. She was particularly helpful as my daughter got sick during our trip, so a two minute trip to the Pharmacy with Rita and we had all the medicine we needed. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend you book her, maybe on the first day, rather than the last as we did! After speaking with her and listening to her talk about the mysteries of Venice with such passion, I began to look at the city in a very different light. 

Please check out my other posts with recommendations of things to do and where to eat in Venice. In future, should I revisit, I would contemplate staying outside of Venice, and travelling in. Would 100% recommend going in December- the weather was beautiful and the streets were peaceful

How we did it: There were six of us travelling- we flew with Ryanair from Bristol (as it's the only Ryanair flight to Marco Polo and we wanted to take a private water taxi to arrive in Venice) Flights cost £26 pp rtn. The Fishermans cottage Airbnb cost £519 for 3 nights. Private Water taxi transfer was 110 euros, and 3 day travel passes cost 32 euros for the children on a rolling Venice card, and 46 euros for an adult. Both these prices included one way airport transfer by bus. We mainly ate in and shopped at the Rialto Market or Coop. Check out my post Snacking in Venice for recommendations of where to eat.

sonja greenfield