Text by Gabrielle. Photos by Gabrielle and Ben Blair.
[ UPDATED with a full report. ]
Here it is! A report on our trip to Venice. I’ve been promising this for months and now it’s ready to share.
Here’s the thing about Venice. It’s not like Rome. Or Florence. In Rome and Florence, there are specific things you want to see, and that you stand in line to buy tickets for — like the Colosseum, or the David. In Venice, the thing that you want to see? Is Venice. Yes, there are museums, and yes there are ruins, but if that’s what you’re looking for, pick another city. You can go island hopping, you can walk 30 minutes to visit a church, but the alley around the corner might be just as cool, or cooler.
Venice is the attraction in Venice.
You can’t take a bad photo. If you’re looking for photos opps, choose Venice. There is no bad light, there is no bad angle. It’s just photo after photo of heaven. And we tooks hundreds of photos, and I included way too many of them after the jump. (I need to beg your forgiveness in advance.)
When you’re there, it almost feels pretend. As if it’s a stereotype of Venice. As if Disney had created Venice as an amusement park for grownups, and they had staged all the texture and exposed brick — no detail too small. I had to keep reminding myself that people really live there. There are grocery stores and schools. Venice is all about texture. It’s like a city in constant decay, but the decay is beautiful, it’s what draws us in.
And if you visit over New Year’s, Venice is COLD. We bundled up like crazy. As long as it was dry, we spent the day outside and explored… But we did have one rainy day. On that day, we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, then spent the rest of the day in our hotel room having a movie party — it was too cold and wet to be tourists.
As I’ve written before, traveling in the off season has worked great for us. No lines, no waiting at restaurants. But there are some disadvantages. An example in this case: the most recommended gelato shop was closed! You can even see a photo below of Maude trying the locked door. Sad face.
I’m going to write up a list of what we did, but really, just show up and walk around and take photos. Walk until you’re hungry. Then eat. Then repeat. That’s all it takes to have a grand time in Venice.
What we did:
– Spent New Year’s Eve in St. Mark’s Square. We had just arrived late that afternoon, so this was our first venture out from the hotel. Music and dancing in the square. And then fireworks over the water. A pretty spectacular first night in Venice.
– Speaking of our hotel, we stayed in quiet place in the Jewish quarter, big family-size rooms and it offered a decent breakfast. We would definitely recommend it.
– We rode the ferries, called vaporetto, every day. It’s the Venice public transportation system and it’s an amazing way to see the city. Jump on a vaporetta whenever you’re tired and enjoy the views. (And also grin when you think that they’re public transportation system is boats.)
– Took a Gondola ride. We needed two gondolas, and the photos are fun. It looks like dueling gondolas — the kids would cheer when one or the other would pull ahead.
– Visited the islands of Burano (with colorful buildings), and Murano (famed for it’s colored glass). Also, a nearby island that’s a cemetery. All 3 are on the same vaporetto loop.
– Crossed the bay to visit a church (I can’t remember the name), and climbed the tower. It offers great views of the city and surrounding islands.
– Window shopped.
– Fed the pigeons on St. Mark’s Square, and visited the cathedral.
– Bought rope as a souvenir from one of the many sailing gear and boat shops. Maude plans to make it into a nautical bracelet.
– Walked a ton. Ate lots of gelato (even in the cold!). Ate lots of pasta.
It really was an amazing trip. The sort of trip where you show up feeling depleted and can feel your soul filling right up to the brim. It’s so dang beautiful. If you’ve been I hope it was beautiful for you, too. And if you haven’t been, put it on your list. Venice is a jewel.
P.S. — The title is true: no one fell in! I was most concerned about Oscar and Betty, because they can get distracted when they’re chatting and walking at the same time, but we paired little kids with big kids and it worked out great. It is a funny thing — we were on boats every day, sometimes on open water, and we didn’t see a life-jacket the entire time. It’s a different world.
57 thoughts on “We Took 6 Kids to Venice and Nobody Fell in a Canal”
I thought you were kidding about 120 photos. You were not. I love this.
Thanks for wonderful pictures/ I loved your Venice.
and a special thank you for Bakunin tombstone in Russian. Looks very touching.
Love it… All the pictures told a story of a fun adventure.
Ahhh, just the mini-brain-vacation I needed today.
I so enjoyed your photos! I was there 10 years ago and would love to return.
Oh how I would love to go to Venice. I was in Italy 4 years ago but never made it there. Can I ask you, what kind of camera do you use?
Just gorgeous. My only trip to Venice was during the winter, too, and your photos are bringing back so many memories! Looks like the kids enjoyed it, too; I can only imagine how much fun the canals and gondolas and tiny side alleys must be when you’re small…
I’m just impressed that no one fell in the Canal . . . with my boys, that would be bound to happen. Love all the photos; such good memories and experiences your kids are getting. I’m envious in only the best kind of way. :)
great pics… i had hoped for more! ;)
It’s not often I see someone’s travel photos and can say, “I just went there!” But I did. And yes, Venice is a jewell. I wish I had been able to stay longer–I had a half day there at the beginning and most of a day there at the end. So wonderful.
I have to say, your pictures are STUNNING. I love the ombre stairs and noticed that many times with the moss. Really, I’m a little jealous of your fantastic photos. Well done Gabby.
I think Venice is a jewel, too. Was there many years ago with Scott. Your pictures are soooooooo beautiful; some of them bring tears to my eyes they are so beautiful. Your kids are beautiful, too.
Beautiful! It’s so nice to have a family that you can explore new places with. You kids are adorable! How do you manage to take care of a family of 8 and accomplish all these? You are definitely my inspiration.
Venice is definitely on my bucket list. I can wait till my girls are older so that they’ll appreciate the beautfy of another culture.
I think its impossible to go to Venice without taking ten million photos! Every corner is a photo opportunity. Thanks for sharing your photos. I think its really lovely that you travel so much with your children. It can be such a lot of work to travel with them, especially with younger ones but it adds such a lovely dimension to a trip. Its so great to see new places through their eyes. And I love that they will have memories of seeing all these different places while growing up!
Have a good weekend!
We’re headed to Venice in July. Thanks to your photos I can hardly wait! (It’s also encouraging to know none of your 6 fell into a canal – gives me hope for my 2 :)
Who needs words? Photos covered it. Gorgeous .
Probably my favorite blogpost title ever!
Stunning photos! Just a thought, because you’re missing in most photos (not uncommon for most of us Momma’s) you should consider hiring an amateur photographer for the day/afternoon. Getaways as grand as Venice should be well/accurately documented – “Mom WAS there with us”!
I loved the title of the post! Ha, ha, ha. And of course the photos too.
Venice can be a kid-friendly city.
it’s still so weird to me to see other peoples’ photos of places I’ve been in Europe and know that I’ve been there. Like, I recognize those buildings, bridges, and canals. It’s magical. I said to my husband as I was looking at these photos,
“Someday we’re going to take 6 kids to Venice and make sure nobody falls into a canal.”
<3 love your family and the photos, plus the title! It gives me hope, haha!<3
These photos are great! I love the long photo essay. They also make me very nostalgic for our trip there last summer. Our whole family (5) + my sister’s family (5) + Grandma. It was so fun and such a great city to explore with kids. Looks like you all had a lovely time.
I simply love the photo of the sunshine and the drying clothes hanging above the canal. Perfection.
Awesome, amazing photos! We’re in the process of getting our passports; now I want Venice to be our first stop. I recently read something about St Mark’s Square flooding during high tide. Did you see anything like that?
Impossible to have too many photos when they look like this – amazing! thanks for sharing!
The picture of Betty looking at the angel literally took my breath away. I keep going back to look at it because it’s such an amazing moment.
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I don’t know if it my computer but the background is impossibly full of photos, many overlapping making it really difficult to read – it’s horrible, please help!
I love these photos. Lucky no rain or great flood! Saw some of the children had their gumboots at hand though.
BEAUTIFUL beautiful beautiful city! full of colors and architecture! wish I could go someday!
Best title ever :)! If no objects fell in, that will make it even more impressive — no hats, shoes, cameras, tubes of Chapstick, museum pamphlets???
I’ve been to Italy several times for business travel. Last November I was going to take a day trip to Venice since I hadn’t been before. Turns out there was recording flooding and seeing tourists waist deep in water with luggage carried over their heads, I opted not to go.
You have such a wonderful blog!! You are an inspiration to me, I one day want to start a blog on travel, food and family. The photos of Venice are just awesome!!
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Gorgeous!! I am so jealous!
I have been reading your blog since 2008 and absolutely love it. Love your photos of Venice and can’t believe how much all of your kids have grown. DesignMom is a comforting constant in my household. My husband frequently asks what you are up to, I think he is secretly reading your blog. Lol!
Gale from Accra, Ghana
Amazing post and photos! You really made the city come to life. I am curious about what you carry when you travel with your kids. It doesn’t look like you have a bag. I think maybe Ralph has a backpack. I only have three kids and seem to be constantly carry stuff – wipes, drinks, snacks, camera, band aids LOL. How do you travel so light with so many?
I laughed when I read your title.
The photos are LOVELY! I’m so glad you shared them. Venice IS on my list. I am one of six kids, and I am seriously impressed that you and Ben Blair took six kids to France, to Venice — to all of the places you go. You’re amazing.
This is perhaps my favorite post title of yours throughout all the years I’ve followed designmom. :) I loved the oodles of pics!! How else could I travel vicariously?
We were just there (our family of 5) a few weeks ago. We’ve been living in Torino, Italy while my husband is on sabbatical – 6 weeks gone and less than a month left. On weekends we’ve been visiting everything we can including Venice, Florence and the Provence region. I’ve found your blog full of useful advice on family travel and living abroad – thanks! And yes, the best thing to see in Venice, is, Venice!
What lovely memories for your family! I love the photos of all of your children together. How lucky they are to have each other and such adventurous parents!
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What a fun place.
One of our last European trips was when we went to Finland. If you take a ferry to Russia from Finland, you can get a temporary 72 hr visa . So we went to Finland than headed out to St. Petersburg by boat. We got there in one night. We had a great time.
I love love loved reading your story and seeing the pictures. Thank you, designmom!
I’m planning a trip with two friends and two little kids (2 and 5 1/2) so your title intrigued me. My two biggest concerns are all the walking (hard on the two year old to be in a backpack carrier that long) and what I’ve read about the smell (my five year old can’t even bear it when I open French cheese at the dinner table).
Any thoughts on these issues?
Me and my husband are taking our 3 year old for New year in December and i wondered if you could give a little more detail about the new year’s eve / day activities and timing of them. He really struggles to go pats 9p.m. and i am a little worried that the festivities may not even have started by then.
Were there fireworks / activities in the day too or just at night?
LOVE YOUR PHOTOS!!!
Love your post and the great pics! We r going to Venice in June (hopefully) with my 4 kids(18, 15, 12, 5). And was wondering where you stayed there… Thanks!
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Hi, I’m planning a trip to Venice, Italy with my family of 5. I’m currently looking for a hotel that fits all of us. What’s the name of the hotel you stayed at and was it close to the main attractions?
Hilarious title and I loved the photos! We went to Venice as a family of 4 and it was delightful. We found a nice hotel, managed to see all the major monuments and took an truly enjoyable food tour with Food Tours of Venice (foodtoursofvenice.com). It wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I thought it would be, but my boys are in their teens so maybe I got lucky :)