Families are always looking for ways to engage their kids while sightseeing in Europe. Sometimes the attraction is so compelling that kids are naturally interested, while at other times they could care less and do the child’s equivalent of thinking about their “to do” list – they tune out completely.
Interestingly, sometimes the least expected things excite them. While in London last spring, my then 8-year-old Devon could have cared less about viewing the cities’ most iconic landmarks from the double-decker bus. In contrast, he absolutely adored climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Off the tourist track in Venice with Context Travel
The message? The sightseeing secret with kids is interaction instead of observation.
This is precisely the reason why we highly recommended guided family walking tours for exploring European cities. Great family guides understand this secret and create an interactive experience. One of the companies who consistently does an incredible job guiding children is Context Travel.
Ciao Bambino has tried and tested a few of their experiences and they are excellent. Exceptional guides are paired with thoughtfully crafted itineraries just for families.
Our latest experience with Context was in Venice a few weeks ago when we took their Daily Life in Venice for Families Walk.
Piazza where Venetian children play
The goal of this walk is to learn about the way real Venetians live today by exploring the places in Venice that tourists rarely visit. In a tourist-centric city like Venice, a glimpse of local life beyond the throngs of sightseers greatly enhances the experience.
Venice piazza stone investigation
We started our tour in a piazza where we talked about how the volcanic stones provide the foundation for much of the city. Of course, boys will be boys and Devon decided the real excitement was in lifting a loose one out of the piazza. Fortunately, it went down again without a hitch, but guess what? This act engaged him in this part of the visit.
Learning about Venetian church architecture
The beauty of a guide is their ability to share facts that you would never observe on your own. In this case, it’s the presence of maps on church exteriors instead of just religious symbolism given Venice’s commerce-focused culture; after learning this, the outside of every church was suddenly fun to explore.
Venice has many unusual elements given its unique set-up. One is that in lieu of little open space to bury the dead, people were buried under the streets. A sign of this is the words “dei morti” indicates that this is such a place. 9-year-old boy assessment of this fact? Thumbs up!
Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin
We only visited the interior of one church but it was to visit an important one, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, and home to Titan’s famous Assumption of the Virgin. Honestly, this would not have been on our radar had we not been off the main tourist track with a guide. It was fantastic and every one of us appreciated viewing this masterpiece with a guide.
And finally, we spent time discussing the way families live in Venice today while checking out where the children play. With more time, we’d have joined in!
Note: We didn’t follow the standard itinerary for this tour as we met our guide in a different starting point than usual. She customized the tour for us. Context guides know their stuff and don’t follow rigid scripts, but it’s always best to try and stick to the itinerary for a given tour to get the most out of it.
Length: 2.5 hours
Cost: 265€ per party
Editorial Note: Context Travel provided a complimentary guide for us to review this tour. As always, all opinions are our own. Photos courtesy of Amie O’Shaughnessy
Ciao Bambino recommended Venice/Veneto family hotels
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