For the Romanian version, click here.
Translated by: Lorena Drăghici
Venice is the first city included in our project Destinaţiile copiilor (Destinations for children). This is a fascinating city that will win their admiration and stir up their interest no matter the time of year, a city with unique details and events that are well known all around this wide world, one of them being, of course, the Carnival of Venice! I chose this event and ignored the crowd fear because I wanted the first image of Venice through the eyes of my child to have an aura of playfulness, imagination, magic and freedom of thought.
Read on to find out reasons, ideas, preparation advice, fragments from Petra’s diary (our daughter), photos and videos..
IS VENICE OR THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE RECOMMENDED FOR A CHILD?
I would love to know the universally acknowledged answer to this question, but I think that you, as a parent, should know your child better than I do. Petra has been afraid of clowns and monsters for years. She still hasn’t got used to monsters, thereby avoiding the books and movies showing or describing “bloody” scenes, as she uses to call them. The good news is that, if you decide to go to Venice even during the carnival, you won’t find too many negative characters, as most masks and costumes make you think about the world of kings, princes or the luxurious life of doges. Occasionally, you may see original or funny costumes or a negative interpretation of a darker character. In order to have an idea of what you can see at the Carnival of Venice, see the photo gallery here.
I think we chose the best moment to go to Venice with Petra, as she is already a school-aged girl. However, a best friend of mine who went to Venice during summertime described the reaction of her younger daughters when they got there: Mummy, how could you not bring us to Venice until now? You’ve just received an answer to the question “Is Venice recommended for a child?”, right before making an attempt to convince you. But I won’t stop here.
(AT LEAST) SIX REASONS TO TAKE YOUR CHILD TO VENICE
1. Venice is a city on the water. Bus stops are on water, “buses” or taxis operate on water, the police, the ambulance and the refuse collection vehicles circulate on water. For a child who grew up in a city or a place located on safe and solid ground, this “water” detail could be convincing enough for a trip to Venice. He or she will move restlessly on the pontoons waiting for the vaporetto to come, will be fascinated by the house doors opening directly onto water and will want to know more about how the city was built. Therefore, be prepared with some good stories; I’ll give you some ideas later on.
2. In Venice you can walk on the streets wearing a costume and not look weird. During the carnival, everyone is wearing a costume, but your child can put a costume on anytime he/she likes. We didn’t manage to do this properly and our outfits were far from what we wanted. If we ever go to Venice again, we’ll definitely have costumes on condition that we can wear them over our thick clothes. Beware, February is a very cold month in Venice. We are seriously considering Brazil for our next trip.
3. Pigeons come to eat out of your hand. This is not necessarily a good thing. At least, try to explain your child that ice cream is not part of a bird’s daily healthy diet. And for that matter, even humans should try and stay away from it. I don’t know if you can find proper pigeon food to buy, but it is worth finding out more on this topic. We found it hard to stop the massive bread consumption, as Petra was way too ecstatic the birds were lying on her arms and head and everywhere. She, who has been trying to catch a pigeon ever since she has been able to walk, only managed to catch a hen so far. However, while she was busy feeding the pigeons, I had plenty of time to admire the fabulous architecture of Piazza San Marco.
3. Workshops where children can see how masks and other beautiful glass objects are made. We saw a demonstration in a store, although we didn’t search for it on purpose and we didn’t have to go to Murano for such a thing. Even though we subsequently took a boat to Murano and Burano, two beautiful places that children will definitely like.
4. Museums and palaces that children may find interesting. We couldn’t find the time to see any of these, not even the Doge’s Palace. And maybe it’s not even worth it, given the crowded weekends during the carnival. If you happened to be there at the right moment, you have interesting options ranging from the Natural History Museum where a dinosaur skeleton is on display to the museum of fabrics and costumes or other wonderful collections that only the grown-ups interested in fine arts could appreciate. But even this can be learnt!
5. Giardini della Biennale and other parks or ideas. During the carnival, the Biennale building hosts the International Kids’ Carnival, with plenty of workshops and other interactive activities. We found a hall dedicated to Gopo, needless to say how enthusiastic we were! During the remainder of the year, there is a special bookshop for kids which hosts various workshops – Laboratorio Blu, a game library where children can borrow games – Ludoteca la Luna nel Pozzo or shops where they can buy games (the Magic Lantern, close to the Rialto bridge) as well as parks, pools, the Lido beach or other possibilities to spend time outdoors.
6. Gondola rides – I have a feeling that I will annoy many parents, but nevertheless, I’ll say it: I promised my little girl we’ll go back to Venice for a gondola ride. You cannot just show the gondolas to your child and expect him/her to remain indifferent. We didn’t afford it then, besides it was freezing cold in February. However, we will have to keep our promise one day.
Excerpts from the diary of Petra
“You can travel to Venice by plane, by car or by other means of transport. It’s best to go there during the carnival. Don’t imagine 10 beautiful masks. Imagine about 1,000 of EXTRA BEAUTIFUL masks.
The carnival takes place in Piazza San Marco. Frittelle can be found only during the carnival. They are small doughnuts, filled or unfilled. They are very good.
Masks are funny, they are sad or happy. There are not only masks, but also many friendly pigeons that lie on you (especially on your head).
A great attraction is to walk the streets. The shop sellers are very friendly. One of them showed us how to make a glass snail.
There is also a children’s carnival (Il Leon Musico) with workshops, games and movies. You have to speak a little Italian to take part in certain workshops.
There ARE NO cars, taxis or buses. You add “on water” to all these. All houses are built on water. Some houses have their doors in water.
There is “Vaporetto dell’arte” where you can put headphones on and learn different things about the city.
From Venice you can go to Murano where the glass is made. There you find whatever you want, only it’s made of… glass. I saw horses, elephants, snails and baby animals. I even found glass candies.
All the coloured houses are in Burano. They are blue, pink, orange and yellow. They are so coloured because fishermen came home late and it was easier for them to find their own house.
It is worth visiting Venice, Murano and Burano.
A magnificent place!” – Petra Farca
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR TRIP TO VENICE IN THE FAMILY
Pick up some important buildings and bridges and, in case you don’t have photos of them, search the internet and print some photos. Not too many though. Help your child memorize their names. Children love to travel to famous places. Petra wants to see Copenhagen for the Little Siren, London for the Big Ben and Paris for the Eiffel Tower. They are sometimes too young to be able to do more than this, but you are old enough to make the most of such trips. Help them understand they will travel to a well-known place, make them proud of this and be glad when they recognize the objectives in the photos.
Don’t tell your child all the details, let him/her discover. Having in mind the child’s age, choose a few things or more or less obvious details that he/she should discover while taking a walk in the respective place. I didn’t check, but I had read somewhere that the Tourist Information Points in Piazza San Marco sell small notebooks in which children can write down the number of winged lions they find. The winged lion is the symbol of Saint Mark and of the city of Venice as well. You don’t necessarily need the notebook; you can initiate your own contest, but keep in mind that you have to lose no matter what! Just to give you a clue: there are at least 14 winged lions in Piazza San Marco.
Find out some interesting details or legends and have some stories at hand.
Did you know that:
- there are over 400 hundred bridges in Venice?
- the lagoon froze in 1708 and in 1929?
- the greeting “ciao” derives from the Venetian phrase “sciào vostro” meaning “I am your slave”? Or that the word “carnival” comes from the Latin “Carnem levare”, which refers to the abstention from eating meat? And that this is the reason why the carnival takes places and ends before the Lent?
- the carnival used to last 6 months, from October until the beginning of the Lent. During the carnival all excesses were allowed and parties were endless. After conquering Venice, Napoleon banned the carnival in 1797. This event was forgotten for a while, but revived for touristic purposes only after 1979?
- the legend says that the remains of Saint Mark could be stolen from Alexandria (Egypt) because they were wrapped in pork meat, and the Muslims are not allowed to lay their hands on pork? There is a mosaic illustrating this legend in the homonymous basilica in Piazza San Marco. I didn’t know and I missed that.
- addresses in Venice do not specify the name of the street, only the name of the district and the number?
- Antonio Vivaldi and Carlo Goldoni were born in Venice?
- before being painted in black, gondolas were colourful and lavishly adorned? However, in 1663, a decree was issued to stop the competition among noblemen.
Buy the appropriate guidebook. There are numerous guidebooks especially created for children, comprising illustrations, funny facts, games and other stories using a simple language. In Venice, I found a guidebook called VivaVenice, a guidebook for children and the young-at-heart and I concluded that I was young at heart as I loved the book. I didn’t find out how, but it’s worth trying and ordering it in advance, to help you prepare your trip to Venice!
Be careful about the clothes – even though far from being pleasant, visiting Venice when it’s flooded is an experience per se, an evidence of the manner in which the Venetians deal with such surprises. Despite the improvised wooden bridges, it would be advisable to check the weather forecast before and have some rubber boots at hand. Do not forget about the thick clothes and a second pair of footwear during winter. Even if the water is low, it sometimes floods the sidewalk. As I was guilty of not taking too many thick clothes or a back-up pair of boots for Petra, I found it hard to prevent my almost ten-year girl from getting her feet away from the puddles or from going down the slippery mossy stairs…
INSTEAD OF CONCLUSION: IS THIS TRIP WORTH MAKING NO MATTER THE AGE?
You may ask the following question: “Is it worth to take my child with me if he/she doesn’t remember much of the trip?”. If you want to see the Carnival, then of course you can take your child with you. If the child is too little, I must warn you that you’ll find it quite hard to handle the baby carriage on bridges and stairs. However, any travel experience with your child means more than any historical facts or remembering such details. It is a life experience, a new challenge that your little one learns to better face it with every day spent in an unfamiliar environment, a change of routine which, later on, will prove useful and teach him/her to embrace novelties and take decisions more easily.
This is all I have to say, at least for now. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have, despite my short stay in Venice. In my turn, I’d like to ask you what other details or specific information about this project or the destinations for children you’d be interested in.