Venice Vacation, Travel with Children.
Why a Venice vacation? Celebrating New Years Eve as your children grow older becomes less about finding tickets for outrageous parties, clubs, gigs and ore about finding something beautiful, fun and inclusive you can do as a family. You want the big bangs, the fireworks, the camaraderie of other people without overwhelming crowds and the ability to get back to the warm as soon as the children have had enough, or the ability to experience it all from the comfort of a vey large hotel window!
This is how many of my friends now celebrate New years eve, booking months in advance the best hotel room they can find, or air bob apartment which affords them a view of the Thames and the London skyline to enjoy the New Years festivities from the comfort and warm with free flowing alcohol and good food.
“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.”
For us this year, we though we’d try something a little different, well I thought we’d try something different and booked Venice, without telling my husband or son of our destination, simply that we’d be away for three days. I told them on the morning of departure, 2 hours before we set off for the airport that we were in fact Venice bound to celebrate New years Eve 2016.
Flights to Europe as we know if you book at the right time can be pretty attractively priced. I’d booked flights via British Airways with no hold luggage, not too bad a price, almost matching Easy Jet and Monarch for the cost, and a far better plane and service. I also decided to use our Hilton Honours Points card, with diamond membership status I booked us in to the Hilton Molino Stucky in Venice, again this worked out a great deal with the extra benefits taken into account, especially in a city a expensive as Venice.
This luxurious hotel in a restored, redbrick flour mill on Giudecca Island, is a 6-minute walk from the nearest vaporetto stop and a 12-minute walk from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It’s 2.5 km from Rialto Bridge.
Our room was great, a little dated in decor, however, probably fitting for location, we had a fantastic view of the Grand Canal and Venice views. Upgraded options such as those afforded to us via our Hilton Honours Membership gave access to an executive lounge which I have to say was invaluable in terms of a pit stop and inclusive food and drink throughout our stay at no extra cost, any parent will truly appreciate the value of this travelling with children. the food and drink is replenished throughout the day and there is always something appetising available, cheeses, meats, pasta dishes, pantaloon We also were upgraded to receive free in-room wifi and breakfast for the duration of our stay.
Breakfast is offered in 1 of 4 restaurants. There’s also a swanky rooftop bar and a relaxed lounge. Other amenities include a rooftop pool (seasonal), a spa and a gym. An area shuttle boat is available, this in itself was such a saving getting to and from The main area daily and offers a significant saving to your budget than the 3 day water taxi card you’ll be offered at the airport when trying to get to Venice central as being a better deal, if you’re staying at Hilton Molino Stucky, you truly don’t need it, you just need transport to and from the hotel on your arrival and departure days.
The bar in the lobby is great, very warm and welcoming and the rooftop bar is uber stylish and sophisticated. though it was clearly out of season to use the roof top pool which looks amazing, due it being New Years Eve, the area was opened up and made a fantastic vantage point to celebrate and watch the fireworks and festivities taking place below, along with the disco and food taking place in the roof-top bar, truly a great way to boogie the night away with your children, see the fireworks and drink and be merry within a safe comfortable environment. close enough to your room so you can flop into bed when you’ve had enough.
By day, Venice is a city of museums and churches, packed with great art. You can linger over a luxurious lunch pretty much anywhere, let’s face it, there are no bad views, bad seats and certainly a wealth of great food. At night, when the hordes of day-trippers have gone, another Venice appears.
If you can, having visited St Marks Square by day, go back and experience it by night or hang around for dinner and take a stroll before heading back to your accommodation, it’s something really rather magical with the twinkling lights around the perimeter of the shopping area. Glide in a gondola through quiet canals while music echoes across the water. There are certain activities you simply have to enjoy whilst in Venice, a Gondola ride being one of them, again, beautiful by day, magical by night or early evening.
I’m very fortunate in that I have a Travel Expert in the family, thus I was lucky enough to benefit from her expert tips on suggested things for us to do depending on length of stay bearing in mind we had a child with us. Though it’s very tempting, I can’t even begin to take credit for the following so have left these brief notes she made for us as suggestions of what we might wish to consider as I think they’re invaluable:
LISA’S VENICE TIPS –RIC, SELINA & PIERS – WITH PIERS IN MIND
MUST DO ACTIVITIES
Water Pass. Buy the water pass I mentioned – eg 3-day water pass then you can hop on/off boats and also take the tour to Burano. Navigating the City. Any visitor to Venice has to confront its unique geography. Exploring the city properly means pounding the canalsides and clambering over bridges. Travel light and leap on a vaporetto (waterbus) when flagging. The ferries ply the Grand Canal, but will also whisk you out to the islands of the Venetian lagoon, such as Burano (best island).
1 Climb San Giorgio Belltower –in a lift – great views of all Venice
From San Marco (St Mark’s) take the boat on a quick hop (5 mins by boat) to Isola di San Giorgio (Island of San Giorgio) you see from St Mark’s. (Or climb Belltower at St Mark’s but San Giorgio is better & less crowded, far shorter queue)
2 Take a Number 1 Vaporetto (waterboat/ ferry) down the length of the Grand Canal, looking at the palaces. Use your water pass. Takes 40 mins to an hour.
3 Doge’s Palace – must be Secret Tour. Pre-book (even day before?) –see online the Secret Tour of the Doge’s Palace in English -far better than normal tour, full of secret places –go through secret doors, see the Doge’s secret courts, see the prisons under the roof Casanova escaped from –just a small group. Exciting for adults and kids. Well worth it – best tour in Venice. Lots of booking sites –try Doge’s Palace itself as booking site, or call in to book for eg next day.
Doge’s Palace: www.museiciviciveneziani.it
4 Burano island. Day 2 or Day 3 get a boat to Burano the best island – gorgeous places to see – mostly colourful fishing buildings, canal views. Maybe call into Venissa for a wine tour (though might bore Piers). Take boat from Central Venice –Fondamenta Nuove stop much much quicker than stop from St Mark’s Square so either walk to FN or get another boat there (all on your pass).
Burano has some of the lagoon’s best restaurants, mid-priced. Al Gatto Nero is where Jamie Oliver came to learn from `the risotto king.’ The silky, rippling effect on the seafood risotto is proof that the rice is cooked to perfection. Neighbouring Da Romano is bigger, bolder, heartier and artier.
5 Take a gondola ride with my friend Alex Hai –proper gondola –but not cheap – about 100 e pp but check official price. Told Selina about her – book in advance. www.gondoliera.com
Or try another gondola –best to do side canals not Grand Canal but your call.
6 Explore Rialto Market –it’s teeming with people – and fish. Do a market, bar or foodie tour (or mini cooking class) with Countess Enrica Rocca – pre-book. Told Selina about her. Funny, feisty celeb chef – tours not pricey/ www.enricarocca.com
(At the same time jump into various hidden-away tiny bars/inns there for typical Venetian lunch – very cheap –can be a stand up lunch even – not totally sure what food there works for piers so check). Typical bars/inns there: Bancogiro (good one).
7 Take a Traghetto –(“cheap public gondola) and stand up!
It’s a public gondola – a hop across the Grand Canal –only about 1-2 euro pp –only a few minutes but fun. Take it at any of these spots:
1 Mercato-Santa Sofia –trag by Ca d’Oro
2 San Toma’ to Sant’Angelo
3 Giglio –
8 Hot chocolate and cake in a grand café
Pricey but an experience –Venetians do it too
Eg Florian’s on St Mark’s Square – orchestra performs at same time or eat indoors. Don’t have proper meal –waste of money –only cocktails or chocolate & cake
9 For Selina: –brand new luxury designer department store, only one in Venice, in Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the Grand Canal. Ask hotel for more info.
10 For Piers: most of stuff above is for him. Also: maybe glassblowing on Murano –island –in your water pass but could be taken there free by your hotel but that’s a bit of a marketing ploy to make you buy there (not that you have to)
11 For Ric. One of my favourite bars – more for evening drinks than during the day. Do chat with the barmen as they’re there to entertain. The Oriental Bar in the Metropole Hotel, Riva degli Schiavoni (5 mins walk along seafront from St Marks). This is the city’s most eccentric hotel, an extravagant patrician residence that was formerly part of an orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi taught and composed The Four Seasons. The Oriental Bar is as baroque as Vivaldi himself, with drinks served in the composer’s former chapel. Suave barmen love-bomb you with Vivaldi Martini cocktails and snippets of Venetian lore. As a priest, Vivaldi apparently often left the altar to jot down a musical idea.
Dining in the San Marco area can be tricky as overpriced tourist traps, grand cafes and expensive established restaurants predominate. But moving away from St Mark’s generally sees both the crowds (and the prices) fall away. Not that the grandest places should be dismissed out of hand as they are so atmospheric. Eateries of Venice: reliable insiders’ restaurant guide by Michela Scibilia, a pal, available in Venice as a book or as an App.
Alla Vedova: Ramo Ca’ d’Oro, Cannaregio, T: +39 041-5285324
Very simple, old-fashioned, a favourite of mine – good pasta too.
Ca d’Oro water stop and just beside Ca d’Oro palace/gallery.
Bangogiro (Rialto Market) –see below
Le Maschere, Starhotels Splendid, San Marco Mercerie, 760, 30124 Venezia T: +39 041 5200755
www.starhotels.com Best in the evening – in a covered courtyard –fully heated and roof so warm –sit by fire too –great hotel, not run by the hotel itself but set in the hotel; it’s independent. Good range of Italian food, not just Venetian; nice atmosphere. Theatrical courtyard restaurant, snug fireside, pasta, meat, risotto, apple strudel, a legacy of the Austrian occupation of Venice.
Palazzina G (PG’S Restaurant), www.palazzinag.com
Palazzina G, San Marco 3247, T 041 528 4644 (hotel
Nearish San Marco –very stylish, designer-y and good food, sophisticated, far more adult than child-friendly but still friendly enough. Sexy bar –could just go for cocktails and bar snacks then decide
This Philippe Starck fantasy faces Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the greatest Venetian palaces, but is equally baroque in its own boutique way. Johnny Depp made the canal-facing Krug Champagne Lounge his Venetian base but it’s enough to try the lounge bar, a teasing take on Venetian splendour
Bars/inns that do food too
Bar food at Bacari – Venetian inns-cum-wine bars – note that they are best for lunch not dinner and close early. Ok for kids too
Bacari are traditional inns and wine bars that also serve a Venetian version of tapas, known as cicchetti. A bacari crawl, especially in the authentic Rialto or Cannaregio areas, represents one of the highlights of any stay in Venice. When planning a route, be influenced by neighbourhood, mood and personal taste for authenticity, tranquillity or live music. A bar crawl is best begun at sunset as some of the more traditional bars close early. These time-warp taverns are the perfect introduction to cicchetti, from slivers of dried salt cod (baccala) slathered on crostini, to tiny meatballs or sweet and sour sardines –usually washed down with Prosecco. Other cheap but often sensational tapas include calamari, marinated radicchio, fried mozzarella balls, asparagus tarts, Venetian sushi, or shrimp wrapped in pancetta. Most bacari are in the Rialto.
WHAT TO DRINK
Depending on mood, opt for old-school glamour around San Marco or authentic, rough-and-ready Venetian wine bars (bacari) around the Rialto or Cannaregio. In Venice, local Veneto wines predominate, from sparkling Prosecco, the perfect aperitif, to crisp Soave, Valpolicella or Bardolino. The Bellini, a combination of Prosecco and fresh peach juice, was supposedly invented in Harry’s Bar). The other classic local cocktail is spritz, an orangey concoction (and an acquired taste) made of Campari or bitters, white wine and soda water. To widen your wine knowledge, look out for an enoteca, a combination of wine bar and wine merchant, a cosy spot that probably also serves snacks.
Personally, having previously been to Venice I had enjoyed the Bellini at Harry’s Bar and also a meal in an upstairs room, not sure if that is still available, but for me was certainly a pleasurable experience, but not one we partook of on this particular short trip, but if like glitz and glam, you might enjoy this.
Due to the time of year I can honestly say we didn’t have to seek out too much entertainment, we explored via water boat the many buildings along the Grand Canal and went off walking along side streets, which you will find amazing little restaurants and fantastic buildings where you least expect them. Our son was delighted to happen across a fun fair as we strolled along the Grand Canal where we passed at least an hour or so on our first evening.
On our second day, as well as a Gondola ride, which was a fantastic treat and a great way of having a guided tour of the relevant historic buildings of interest. It was magical and even when we went back to exploring on foot closer some of the things our Gondola driver had pointed out. We also took the tour of the Doge’s palace which I must say is amazing, it’s something that will stay with you for life and nothing can prepare your or the assault on your senses that you will experience by the awe and splendour you enter into. On major gripe I did have, was with my fellow tourists whilst viewing the Doges Palace,t he complete disrespect and disregard for the rules, the many security staff and signs everywhere. If we were in a stricter non Christian country, would they dare be so rude? I think not. The security staff looked almost embarrassed and despite attempts to clear their throats and draw attention tot heir presence without being too authoritarian, the clicking and selfie sticks ruled in all of the buildings.
So excited were people to get their next selfie, face book post whatever, that they blatantly disregarded all requests not to take photographs within the palace. In fact, people would stand in front of the sign and take selfies and images of the palace, with signs being posted just outside of most rooms and inside others, this was something even witnessed inside some of the older churches we entered also and I found it completely disrespectful, selfies at prayer stations, everywhere. However, aside from this, I found the actual place to be thoroughly charming.
Our son was enthralled by the architecture, and for him at age 7 to look at bridges and comment how they appeared to have no actual support (thank you Minecraft) I was impressed at how much he took in through out our exploration. The shopping is real, walk down the side streets around St Marks Square and discover an array of serious high end designer shops, costumes and masks and real independent boutiques selling beautiful jewellery, leather goods and many other fantastic finds.
So for all 3 of our days we found enough excitement and activity to keep us enthralled. The art all around being sold on the streets is almost as engaging and enthralling as all of the many magnificent buildings, bridges and structures and museums. The Food was fantastic the scenery was everything, the vibe was excited yet relaxed and the hotel was just a great base and location to enjoy New Years Eve and Venice in general, near to the action but set aside enough to feel you had a little space…in a very crowded City.
One word of advice, especially if you have heard about the expense of Venice and would like to know what your budget is likely to be without any surprises, book your attractions before you go. There are many ways you can do this and there is lots of advice on sites like Trip Advisor or other travel sites. In particular, as we’d flown out with British Airways, I noticed on their website that we could book experiences ahead of the trip via them. Having returned and looked again I’d recommend it, the prices look pretty good for some things and you have the issue of no quest, believe me the quest are pretty long outside most buildings, we visited the Doges Palace fairly late in the day to avoid this but booking ahead and jumping the que have to better.
For example, booking this trip through BA if only one for the trip would cover a lot of things on your checklist:
“Experience the highlights of Venice on a full-day sightseeing tour that combines three best-selling Venice tours at a discount of ten percent! The action-packed sightseeing experience includes a skip-the-line tour of the public rooms and Bridge of Sighs at Doge’s Palace, a skip-the-line tour of St Mark’s Basilica with a walking tour of Venice, and a motorboat cruise around the famous Grand Canal. Learn all about the different landmarks from an expert guide, and enjoy a choice of timings to suit your schedule.This Super Saver gives you two options for the length of your tour day. Both options include a Doge’s Palace tour that starts at 9am, and then you can choose to have free time to enjoy the city or to go straight to your next tour to finish your day of touring an hour earlier...” – BA website.
This trip could be taken at any time, Valentines, a simple long weekend or maybe a 4 /5 day break, there is so much to see, and the shopping is fantastic, between the designer stores tucked down side streets, the traditional boutiques and of course the many market stalls, it’s a shoppers dream. Venice has everything, for everyone. It’s romantic, it’s gastronomic, it’s evocative and just bloody beautiful. But really if you’re thinking you want to make sure New YearS Eve this year is a bit more exciting, book it now. If you want a safe fun luxury venue to observe the fireworks from with the kids, I can personally recommend the Vantage point of the roof top pool at Hilton Stucky Molino, and the ensuing disco within the bar, hat a night, what a sight, we love you vivacious Venice.