expats · life · parenting · travel · travel in italy

Venice is beautiful, but you should stay away from it

I had to go on work trip near Venice, Italy, and my husband and the kids decided to come along, and take the chance to spend Easter with our families. We have spent around ten days in Mestre, really close to Venice, and during one weekend, we took off and decided to go and visit Venice. My husband and I had visited Venice more than once on our own – never together, though – but this was a first for the kids. The first thing I want to share with you all is

do not travel to Venice with children.

Believe me when I say, the pain is more than the gain. This is why:

  1. It is too expensive.
  2. The general attitude is to squeeze as much money as possible from tourists.
  3. It is too crowded.
  4. All services are utterly inadequate and there are no services for children at all.
  5. It is not the authentic Italian experience you expect.

Even without kids, you may want to reconsider. Don’t get me wrong, Venice is an amazing and unique place. Too bad it has transformed in a tourist meat grinder. I will walk you through our day and leave it for you to judge.

We decided to buy a day ticket which would allow us to freely use all buses and water buses. Kids under six travel for free (good!) but one adult ticket cost 20 euros. Using a stroller in Venice would be pure madness, so we had to carry our small one in a baby carrier all day. Our plan was to visit the nearby island of Murano first. We found ourselves waiting at the water bus stop for a full hour, standing on our feet and pressed in a crowd. Imagine doing that with two kids under five. Yeah.

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One street in Murano, hosting many glass masters’ workshops.

After this test of our mental resilience, we travelled to Murano. The islands of Murano are famous for a unique glassware technique which is centuries old. Murano’s glasses are mesmerising and beautiful beyond words. This was the highlight of our day, as for only 3 euros/each (kids enter for free) we could observe an apprentice working the glass.

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The apprentice of the glass master showing us his work in Murano.

He explained it takes easily 20 years for someone to become a glass master. This was really interesting to watch and a first time for me and my husband as well. The kids were mesmerised and stared speechless the whole time.

We had packed some sandwiches to eat for lunch, but we had to eat them hiding in a corner, as you may get fined for eating your own food in Venice. This rule was justified by the claim that so many tourists eating “on the go” may produce huge quantities of trash, but in truth it’s just another excuse to squeeze money out of visitors. Prices in Venice’s restaurants are easily two or three times what you would pay 10 km away from the town and food quality is overall poor. We saved some bucks, but did not enjoy our lunch.

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Masks are another craft Venice is famous for.

Our ride back to the old town was better than the first and we landed near Piazza San Marco, one of the main landmarks. Entering the Basilica or the Museum was impossible: the queue was easily 50 meter long. Take into account, we were not travelling in high season. As one shop’s clerk told me, “during high season, you simply cannot walk in Venice“. Whatever I’m telling you here, it’s Venice at its best! Anyhow, we quickly showed the most important buildings to the kids from outside: the St. Mark tower, the Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs.

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A Gondola passing by and the Bridge of Sighs.

We could only watch Gondolas (the classic Venice’s ship) as one 30 minute ride cost 80 euros.

R: “I want to go! Don’t we have those money?”
me: “We do have them but if we go on that Gondola ride, you have to give up eating for two days, how does that sound?”

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Gondolas parked near San Marco square.

We walked around and ate an ice-cream (luckily we knew where to go to have a good one). There are public toilets in Venice (about 1,50 euro to access) but we preferred to have one cup of coffee and use a cafe’s toilet. We tried to avoid cafes too close to the main square, as they are notorious for their stellar prices. We paid our espresso double than anywhere else in Italy, but at least we could use the toilet. It was clean but probably the most uncomfortable I have ever seen. Luckily we have toddlers and pant-diapers, but be aware you will not be able to change a baby diaper in Venice.

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The main entrance of St. Mark’s Basilica.

After the coffee we simply were too tired and stressed to go on. I feel disappointed. I hoped that our visit in low season would allow us to live a more authentic side of Venice. I was well aware of how awful Venice becomes in high season, but unfortunately it didn’t seem any better in low season. It simply is too crowded for you to enjoy it. Also, you would expect such a popular destination to be well-served, but it’s quite the opposite. It seems that the local administration is so cocky about the town being popular that they do not put any effort in serving the visitors. “They’ll come visit anyway”, everything seems to scream. And definitely there are no services for kids.

If you want to truly enjoy a relaxing and inspiring time in Venice, you need no kids and a high budget (easily 400 euros/day for a couple). There are definitely better destinations for you to enjoy a fantastic family holiday and the best sides – culture, food, people – of Italy.

Have you visited Venice with kids? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out also:
New Delhi with kids
Our amazing day in Tykkimäki
E’s first trip to Italy

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15 thoughts on “Venice is beautiful, but you should stay away from it

    1. Don’t! It’s more pain than gain. The general attitude is awful, food quality is low and they treat tourists like sheep. It has only gotten worse in the past 10 years. Italy has so many hidden pearls with lower cost and better everything! For instance I recommend Treviso and Verona which are close and full of things to see 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Interesting read… Are you Italian by the way – just read your about page and was wondering. Anyway, it’s refreshing to read a post with real opinions and not just another glossy “everything-is-so-insta-perfect-in-my-life” travel post ☺️So well done for that! As for Venice, I’ve been there 3 times and taking my babies there has never crossed my mind, it doesn’t seem like the best place to visit with toddlers or young kids. And now you confirmed my thoughts. I used to love traveling in Italy when I was young, traveled solo and spoke some Italian. Back then it wasn’t something everyone did, like now. And now that I’m pushing 40 and have forgotten my language skills, I’ve not been treated as nicely in Italy. I was quite disappointed the last time I was in Milan at how rude people were (totally unlike I remembered!) and I did get the impression that they saw me as a walking wallet. So I believe you, completely! Very sad to hear it though… I have nice memories from Venice too, so maybe I shouldn’t revisit and just keep the nice memories instead! 😄

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    1. Hi thanks for the comment! I am indeed Italian and I have visited Venice several times, in different seasons. I think the last before this was around 2008, it was already too crowded then but in 10 years, with the tourist volumes they get, I would expect they’d refine their services. Instead they got cocky, because tourists come no matter what. I have visited many places in Italy so I know it’s full of hidden pearls which deserves tourists’ money much more 😊.

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  2. Wow, it really does look so beautiful but also sound terrible for all the reasons you’ve pointed out. I’m sorry your visit was a disappointment and I hope your kids still have some positive memories of the whole experience, despite the struggles. Thank you for writing so honestly about it, that’s very helpful, and as you say there are so many other places to visit, why waste money (and time) on somewhere which isn’t really enjoyable x
    #LGRTstumble

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  3. I went with my family (toddler, 7 year old & husband) in September last year, the Grandparents (my Mum and Dad), Sister, husband and 3 nephews. I have to say we honestly had the most heavenly 5 days ever! We’d pre-booked a special tour by foot which had been recommended in the Guardian. The tour guide was incredible and took us to all of the undiscovered parts of the city. We also booked in a mask making session for the kids which was one of the highlights of their trip. We booked with AirBnB so we did our own cooking (we only ate lunch out a couple of times), we wondered the streets without much agenda (other than the Damien Hirst exhibition which we had gone specifically to see). The biggest splurge was a taxi from the airport, because we worked out that it was as cheap as 10 of us catching the water bus.
    I had been to Venice before and also thought it was a ‘theme-park’ city, full of tourists and too hectic and bustling to enjoy. But this time went with a new approach, we avoided the tourist bits and found heaven in the side streets.
    I would recommend going with a larger party, dividing the prices makes it more affordable.

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  4. I have been to Venice every year for 6 years in a row on a very tight budget , I adore the place , there is nowhere else like it on earth. when you get away from the touristy areas around San Marco & just wander & get lost it is Venice at its best. I have never been overcharged in a restaurant I do my research & know to go where the locals eat & not around St Marks square , embrace cichetti , kind of like Venetian Tapas , a really cheap way to eat. Some fabulous fresh take away pasta restaurants with cheap street food which I have always eaten in the street without being arrested or fined. Buy a Venetia Unica card with Travel & transport options, which also enables you to skip the line at places like the Doges Palace etc. For all those considering not going to Venice I can think of a million more reasons more reasons why to go. The art, the churches, the architecture , the sheer beauty of the place. I have wandered down empty streets in Venice at height of tourist season , you just need to explore a little more.

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    1. Venezia Unica does not make you SKIP lines, just gives you higher prio so you queue less.
      Sure, you CAN find cheaper places in Venezia but the amount of research you have to do is crazy. For me vacation means relax , not overplanning.
      Cafes’ and restaurants’ toilets are dirty and with no changing tables, nor they have high chairs. Nothing for kids there. It’s not stroller friendly. Definitely you cannot walk in the small roads with kids (stroller doesn’t fit and kids can fall in the water easily).
      Venice is known among Italian people to be a NO GO place.
      Especially since you can get a much more relaxing and cheaper holiday few km away. 😉

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      1. I can see your point for Venice with young children to be honest , but I wouldn’t knock Venice its history & culture is amazing & there is no other place like it on earth. But that is just my opinion.

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      2. On that you are absolutely RIGHT, in fact we Italian people are quite mad that we cannot enjoy it 😃. For instance no one lives there anymore! Also, we are very mad at how they treat tourists, often on national newspapers you read of tourist scams happened in Venice or other big tourist destinations, we are ashamed of how things have turned out there.
        In other places locals feel almost honored if tourists visit and make a better effort… and Italy has so much to offer in terms of culture, history, food… when I lived there, we often picked the car and went somewhere random for the weekend… because there’s ALWAYS something to see 😁

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      3. The tourist scams are dreadful , the first year I went I had my purse stolen in The Frari church ( my favourite place in Venice ) I am now much more wise as this will be my 7th visit in a few weeks , as for Italy & her people I adore her , I have been to Italy every year for the past 7 years often multiple times , Rome , Sardinia, Florence, Verona , Naples , Pompei. But Venice I love Serenissima , she pulls me back year after year 😉

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      4. Hi just returned from a weekend in Venice last week & had the most dreadful experience , I was treated like dirt by one Venetian , who after treading on my foot , ( I yelped my feet hurt) swore at me in Italian , called me fat & ugly & a filthy tourist , this filthy tourist has done nothing but respect & love this city & pay tourist euros , very unhappy.

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