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Venice with children - a return to the romantic city with the family in tow

Daily Post 5 days ago Owen Hughes

Getty © Getty Getty

Owen Hughes returns to Italy with his family in tow - 16 years after his first visit

It had been 16 years since I had last visited Venice but it felt like a lifetime ago.

Back in 2002 it was just myself and my girlfriend enjoying the ‘Dolce Vita’ of fine wine and food with the freedom to explore.

Shortly afterwards – nine months to be precise – two became three and a new chapter in our lives was started.

Holidays changed from romantic city getaways to child friendly hotels and campsites – with splash pools and play parks essential.

a bridge over a river in a city: Rialto bridge and with gondola on Grand Canal, Venice © Getty Images/iStockphoto Rialto bridge and with gondola on Grand Canal, Venice

The fact our family is now five strong may explain why it took us so long to return to a city we had fallen in love with as we explored its narrow backstreets and waterways.

This time was very different to our first experience.

Instead of our lagoon hotel room we were staying at the nearby Marina de Venezia – a sprawling family campsite a 25 minute boat ride from the city itself.

We were there with Canvas Holidays – spending a week in one of their large family mobile homes.

Within hours, bikes were hired (definitely needed) and inflatables the size of small warships purchased from stores at the centre of the resort.

It is worth mentioning the village centre – which is wonderfully maintained and literally has everything you would need – and plenty more that you don’t.

We didn’t have far to go to test out the inflatables as the site is laid out literally just behind a beautiful golden(and hot) Adriatic beach.

a boat sitting on top of a sandy beach: Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. Beach at Marina de Venezia © SCU Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. Beach at Marina de Venezia

The sheer length of the beach means there is always space – even when you are armed with a giant blow-up unicorn.

The size of the campsite and the fact we had a nightmare 48 hours getting there due to a cancelled flight meant the first two days were spent at Marina de Venezia.

As well as the sandy beach there are several pools on site and a choice of slides – although they are all very busy so if you don’t like being splashed, stick to the beach.

a group of people swimming in a pool of water: Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice © Daily Post Wales Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice

One thing to warn about is the mosquitoes which descend as dusk falls – repellent is essential.

After settling in we were ready to explore and after a very short bus ride (walking is possible when it’s not nearly 40 degrees Celsius) we boarded a boat from nearby Punta Sabbioni.

The 30 minute journey from the small port through the lagoon waters around Venice and the surrounding islands is truly memorable.

Approaching sun soaked St Mark’s Square by boat is truly the finest way to arrive.

The drawback of visiting Venice in that strong summer sunshine is the sheer heat when you attempt to stroll around in the throngs of people that are attracted to the Italian city with centuries of history to share

a large tall tower with a clock on the side of a building: Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice, side street in Venice © SCU Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice, side street in Venice

It meant regular cafe breaks – away from St Mark’s to keep the cost down – and a slow pace.

As if harking back to 16 years ago our visit was very much unstructured – making decisions on the hoof with a vague idea of the sites we wanted to see.

In hindsight, due to the heat and having at least two of the children prefering to be on the beach, it wasn’t the best idea.

With our ferry ticket still valid the next day we decided to give it another go.

We learnt our lesson from the day before – with an early arrival before the heat really kicked in, a plan, and tickets booked (highly recommended) to visit St Mark’s Basilica, meaning no huge queue.

The Basilica is the most famous of the city’s churches and dominates the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco.

a large stone building: Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. St Mark's Basilica © SCU Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. St Mark's Basilica

It is known as the Church of Gold thanks to its gold mosaics and was a potent symbol of Venetian wealth and power. Its history and importance may be somewhat lost on a six year old but this does not stop them being blown away by the sheer majesty and grandeur of the site.

We also took the narrow staircase to the balcony and upper floor where you can truly appreciate the fine detail of the mosaics. It also gives you a bird’s-eye view of the square.

Once out we headed back to one of the river boat stops that dot the Grand Canal and took a short ride across to the Giudecca district.

Our next destination was the Peggy Guggenheim gallery – taking in a quick takeaway lunchtime snack in the shade at the side of one of the city’s many small squares.

There are so many galleries to pick from but we chose this one partly due to nostalgia (we had visited last time we were there) and also the mix of modern art masterpieces – which the children both enjoyed and occasionally mocked.

Another reason was that, like the Basilica, it was an oasis of cool in a city that was anything but.

a boat on the water with a city in the background: Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. Venice © SCU Holiday review at Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice. Venice

We did take a sweaty walk back to the starting point and this does give you the opportunity to stumble across historic hidden gems that seem to appear after every other turn.

The only downsides of this city are the sheer number of other people that want to see it and the many trashy stores serving up the maximum amount of tat.

But what hadn’t changed from the last visit was that when you venture just a short distance from the main attractions you can still find an oasis of calm in the tightly-knit backstreets.

Sailing away for what we concluded would be our last visit on this holiday we vowed we would not leave it 16 years to return.

The remaining days back at the site drifted by in the way they only do on sun-kissed holidays like this. Other highlights included the incredible beach firework display and the array of ice cream and fancy coffee choices at the village centre cafes.

water next to the ocean: Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice © Daily Post Wales Marina de Venezia campsite near Venice

There is also entertainment every night on the main stage and from a couple of the acts we saw it’s a good standard.

While far removed in so many ways from our first experience of Venice the return will also live long in our memories.

Factfile

Owen stayed at Camping Marina de Venezia near Venice with Canvas Holidays.

A seven night stay at the campsite starts at £201 in the off-season.

For all the latest deals go to  www.canvasholidays.co.uk  or ring the call centre number 0345 268 0827.

He flew with easyJet from London Gatwick to Marco Polo airport in Venice.

Return Flights for five people cost £800.

Average cost of dinner for family of 5 was £80

Gallery: Venice and beyond: Cities with water for roads [StarsInsider]


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