We could hardly contain our excitement to meet up with my parents in Venice for our October school holiday. They spent the previous week exploring Rome, Positano, Naples and other parts of Italy since it’s their first time there. Venice has always been on my short list of destinations to see, so I was grateful we could share this time with them.
We had a few hours before they arrived, so we walked around Venice – taking in the incredible and unique atmosphere. Wow! There’s really no place like it on the planet. The floating city consists of 117 islands all connected by little footbridges (over 400 of them) between the 150 canals. It didn’t take long wandering the connecting islands to get lost. But it didn’t matter because around every corner was a picture-perfect sight. I’m still amazed at how they were able to construct buildings straight out of the water. Many are showing signs of sinking, which is a huge threat to this World Heritage Site. Most of the buildings date back from the 13th to 18th centuries.
We learned that each little island was required to have a church built first before it could be inhabited, so even the smallest little islands have a church. We stopped in a few.
After the most delicious Italian meal (seriously worth every calorie), we finally caught up with grandma and grandpa! We’ve been so excited to have my parents join us in Europe, especially after last year’s trials, and beyond grateful my dad’s health has improved enough for him to come. Tyler always has the weirdest item on the menu wherever we go.
We grabbed dinner at the hotel and had an early night to gear up for the adventures of the coming week. This was the best mozzarella I’ve ever had! They made delicious pasta with ragu too.
The next day was spent exploring the lagoon city and all its wonder. It felt like summer still and the crowds were pretty thick (averaging 50,000 people a day), but we were able to see the Rialto Bridge, lots of little shops and churches along the way.
Along the way we stopped for delicious treats – you can’t go wrong with a Nutella Cream Crepe!
St Mark’s Square
In the Piazza San Marco, surrounded by incredible buildings and beauty, the big hit of the day for the boys was playing with the pigeons! It’s always the little unexpected things, but they could have stayed there for hours feeding them birdseed and trying to catch them. Lynn actually caught one mid-flight and we all laughed hysterically as feathers flew.
St Doge’s Palace
Once we ripped the boys away from the birds, we made our way inside the Doge’s Palace – once the seat of Venice’s government and home to its elected ruler. It’s unique white limestone and pink marble exterior in classic Venetian Gothic style has been rebuilt or restored constantly over the centuries.
We meandered through the private rooms, council rooms, jail cells and the most impressive room – the famous Higher Council Hall. This is where the Republic displayed its magnificence to thousands of aristocracy with all of its decoration and paintings. It still boasts the largest oil painting in the world – “Paradise.”
The Bridge of Sighs connects the Palace to the New Prisons. It was named this as prisoners would get their last glimpse of freedom passing through it before incarceration.
St Mark’s Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica had the longest line, but we split up and had the kids hang out with pigeons until we could get in. Nicknamed the “Church of Gold,” and nearly 1,000 years old, the Basilica was erected to house the supposed relics of St Mark. We learned it houses 5,000 square meters of mosaics inside, only lit for 1 hour. Unfortunately, the exterior was being restored so it wasn’t as pretty as normal.
Also in the Square was the enormous Campanile Tower and Torre Dell’Orologio Clock – the official timepiece of Venice.
Next up was our daily gelato fix. Pistachio and Nutella were the best!
Gondola Ride Down the Great Canal
I can’t imagine coming to Venice and not doing a gondola ride, it was our favorite highlight! We decided to let grandma and grandpa have a more romantic ride, keeping all the boys in our boat. Side by side, we floated down the Grand Canal. Seeing the sights from the water was idyllic and memorable for sure, especially passing right under the Rialto Bridge.
Fresh pasta, pizza and caprese were on the menu for dinner. We took a private boat taxi back to the bus station. The boys thought it was super cool hanging out in style. The city looked beautiful all lit up at night.
Day 2: Murano
A quick little ferry ride and we were on the island of Murano, world-famous for their blown glass. The island is quite small, but so charming and nearly every business along the canal is a unique glass blowing store.
It’s not the easiest place to take kids who want to touch every breakable thing, but we enjoyed window shopping and seeing the incredible glass art. They made glass everything!
One of the stores had a glass demonstration which really helped us understand the art and skill to make such beautiful pieces. A master artist took sticks of glass and after melting it in an extremely hot oven and manipulating it many times by rolling it and stretching it, turned it into a cute fluted vase.
Grandpa and grandma fell in love with an amazing glass vase that will look great in their newly remodeled lake house with these new turquoise and lime colors. The vase is made with five different techniques from five master artists all combined into one unique, collectible piece.
The salesman let the boys each pick out a glass paperweight to take home and sent for a private boat to take us back to Venice. The boat driver was so nice, letting each boy take a turn driving. He pointed out the island George Clooney had recently stayed during his wedding.
We couldn’t let the day slip away without more gelato (and pigeons).
Jace was so pleased with his glass souvenirs.
We spent the rest of the day wandering the canals and all its beauty and eating way too many calories. Tomorrow we’re headed off at a ridiculous hour for the next leg of our holiday – Prague!