Venice hooked my kids from the moment they walked out of the train station and landed on the Grand Canal. It’s a living Busy Town, a Richard Scarry excess of the ordinary with floating traffic, bustling bridges and hundreds of little stories playing out to move the Venetian Gothic city from sunrise to sunset.
I love Venice, too, but the sentiment feels more like a confession than a shared joy. Few of my friends agree that there’s much to love in the floating city any more. They say the charm is spoiled by hordes of cruise ship tourists, exorbitant prices, and the “Disneyfication” of the alleys around San Marco.
But with little effort it is easy to escape the mosh pit of tourism on the Grand Canal. If you are game for a labyrinthine detour through dappled alleys and over scenic fairy bridges, then the Venice that has moved imaginations for centuries is still yours. It is a watery magic carpet ride that offers dreamy deliverance to secret spaces. The city oozes romance but go without three kids to tap into that. And yes, bring your wallet.
We stayed in a small apartment tucked away on an alley in Dorsoduro. It had a lovely back garden where I sat in the morning with my coffee and listened to the birds and church bells and noticed only a distant hum of far off activity. The kids slept late in the cool, humid air and our lazy mornings defied the throbbing crowds in San Marco. Our adventures included the lesser-trafficked islands in the lagoon, lazy lunches, and walks through local neighborhoods that bordered the more touristed central district. We splurged for a gondola ride which was worth the 80 Euros, if not for the romance than for the peace it bought once the boys got into the boat. And we couldn’t resist an atmospheric 66-Euro cappuccino (2) and hot chocolate (3) at Caffe Florian. (Yes, Priya, we also visited the old library nearby.)
I bumped into a friend from Delhi who was staying in Venice and teaching a short course at Cà Foscari University. It was a delightful surprise to look up from lunch and see Ananya’s warm and familiar face.
And of course, I ran early in the morning when even the pigeons were asleep and Piazza San Marco was shockingly empty.
Our garden and Olivia, who turned 15, are both in full bloom!