Venice Stories and Tips

Tips and Hints

Every door in Venice has a number Photo, Venice, Italy

* The patron saint of Venice is St Mark and his body is buried in the Basilica of San Marco. St Mark is represented as a winged lion with his paw on an open book - the Gospel. Everywhere you go in the city, look for the winged lion in all sorts of places - on the red and gold flag of Venice, statues, fountains, door handles, even gondolas. This is great fun for children.

* There are hundreds of bridges over the canals and steps up and down each side. If you have young children, avoid bringing a buggy, as this will involve a significant amount of lugging it up and down and over each bridge.

* The ice cream is delicious and available in lots of different flavours. Also try the pastries - the traditional zaletti (large cookies in plain, chocolate or pistachio) made with cornflour are excellent.

* Venice is a fun place to shop - the opulent windows are filled with colours and textures. There are models of gondolas in all shapes and sizes. Also look out for glass items, mosiacs, masks and gondolier hats.

* If you have a coffee and sit at St Marks Square, be aware of the hidden charges. It may say 8 Euros for a coffee, but do not be shocked if you get a bill for 3 times that. The places on the square charge you for sitting on their chairs and listening to the orchestras. Try one of the other squares for a more reasonably priced drink. There will not be an orchestra, but they are still lovely places to watch the world go by.

* Watch the sun rise on the lagoon (we were lucky as we could see this from our hotel window) - the panorama as the city awakens is one of the greatest spectacles. Also walk the streets late at night when the lights twinkle on the water. Take your camera out at sunset for stunning pictures.

* Be aware of the Aqua Alta - during the notorious tidal high water floods the lagoon backwashes into the city leaving up to 5 or 6 feet of water in the lowest lying streets. St Marks Square, as the lowest point in the city goes first. Floods can start late September but are normally between November and March. The waters recede after a few hours and are virtually gone by noon. There are walkways, but you will get wet feet.

* When you go down the Grand Canal, especially with children, look out fo the ambulance boat, the fire boat, the funeral boat and even the Coca Cola delivery boat. We were especially lucky and even saw a gondola filled with flowers and a bride and groom.

* By and large Venice is considered one of the safest cities in Europe. Violent crime is rare here, although pick pocketing can occur.

* Although Venice is not an obvious choice for children, do not be discouraged as it is surprisingly easy to navigate and children love the boat travel. Food and people are child friendly and most of the important sights are outside. The best way to see the treasures of this city is to wander aimlessy stopping for ice creams en route. The lack of traffic means children can play in the squares or meander in the streets without fear. However none of the canals are properly fenced so beware!

* Although summer is not necessarily the best time to visit Venice, there is never really a bad time. In summer remember to bring mosquito repellent (I got bitten a lot!) and a sunhat. Also bring flat and comfortable shoes.

* Give children a flavour of the city without overwhelming them with culture. Trying to see too much is an easy mistake to make in a city like this. Balance is crucial.

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