Third post in my Italy series: Rome, Florence/Tuscany, Venice
Our final stop on our Italian trip was Venice, a great place for teens. Gondola rides, the Doges Palace, prisons, canals, boats, and great food make this a great destination for them.
We stayed at Hotel Antiche Figure. This hotel is very close to the train station, and also very close to the bus station for a quick, inexpensive ride to the airport. We arrived from Florence by train, super-easy to do. We exited the train station, went to our left, crossed the first bridge, turned right, and our hotel was within a block. The hotel had very comfortable rooms and included a great breakfast. It was really close to a water bus stop and not too far for an easy walk to St. Mark’s Square.
On our first day, we stood in line for entry to St. Mark’s Cathedral. We didn’t wait very long, but it was very interesting as the square was flooded (it was March) and we stood on scaffolding while we waited. Many people were wearing waders, we didn’t and we did ok…we just had to carefully maneuver around some areas. The water was quite high, as it was high tide.
In the afternoon, we met up with our tour guide, Igor, from Tour Leader Venice, He took us on a three-hour walking tour and a one-hour water taxi tour. His tour included a guided tour of the Doges Palace, as well as an “off the beaten path” tour to learn about Marco Polo, famous Venetians, the Plague, and history of the city. He also took us off the major tourist routes in order to see the “real” Venice, and told us stories of growing up in Venice and how it has changed. He also told us how Venice is built on wooden platforms supported by wooden stakes driven in to the ground. Very fascinating. Our water taxi tour really gave us an idea of all the different areas of Venice, and we saw all the different, beautiful architectural styles.
Finally, he took us through the Doges Palace, and gave us a great background on its role in Venetian society. He showed us the “secret” way to accuse people (see photo below), and told us about the way the Doges ruled.
The next day we had tickets for the “Secret Itineraries” tour at the Doges Palace. It was much more interesting than the regular tour through the palace, and I highly recommend it. The guide told us about Casanova and his imprisonment, and showed us his cell and described his escape–an incredibly interesting, fascinating story. Our guide also took us up into the attic to see how the huge ceiling below over the Chamber of the Great Council (one of the largest rooms in Europe) is held up without columns, an amazing feat of engineering. We saw more great historic weapons displays, saw a torture chamber and secret rooms, and crossed over the Bridge of Sighs just like Venetian prisoners in the old days.
In the afternoon, we took a free boat ride arranged by our hotel to a glass factory on the island of Murano, where we learned all about glass blowing and saw amazing pieces of custom, handblown glass–everything from full-sized clown figures to birds, bowls, and glassware. They had created almost anything you could ever imagine out of glass.
Finally, we had arranged for a special gondola ride with a very highly recommended gondolier, Luca. We met him in the Jewish Quarter and he took us through very quiet, peaceful canals while the sun set. He sang us a wonderful song, and told us about the tradition of gondoliering in his family. Your teens will love this activity in Venice very much.
We loved our visit to Venice, and you can do it all in two days. What we loved most was wandering down the different city alleys and discovering shops and restaurants and historic sites around every corner. The gondola ride was of course a hit, as was the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doges Palace. I highly recommend taking your teens to Venice and enjoying your time there with them.
Do you have any suggestions for great things for teens to see and do in Venice? Please share below!