venice in 1 day with kids

“Venice in 1 day with the kids?” you shriek in disbelief that it can be done.

“Yes.” is my knowledgeable reply as that is exactly what we did this summer whilst staying on Lake Garda.

We (Megan and I) decided that as a special treat for the girls (aged 9 – 10), we’d catch a train from Verona and spend one day in Venice.

Having lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I was well aware of the cost of a day trip to Venice and to keep our expenditure down our first decision was to take a packed lunch and drinks with us. We checked the train times and we booked a return ‘regionale’ online. (This saved us our first euros as tickets are slightly cheaper online and we found a great Family Deal).

venice in one day with kids

The girls were delighted to see that our ‘very reasonably priced train’ was a double-decker and insisted on sitting upstairs. It is incredibly comfortable and clean  – that’s until you visit the toilets – don’t go unless you really have to is my advice!

An inspector will be along to check your tickets but, if you’ve booked online, you’ll have an email with a QR code which they can scan. The journey from Verona to Venice takes about 1 1/2 hours and arrives slap bang in the centre. the perfect starting point.

Getting around Venice with kids

venice in one day with kids

Another decision we had made during the planning stage was to invest in a ticket for the vaporetto. At first glance, this might seem an outrageous expense but contrary to belief, Venice is enormous and the islands surrounding are quite a distance away. This is the part we hadn’t looked into booking online and my advice would be to do so if you can as it will save a lot of time. There are various options to choose from and we went for the 1-day inclusive pass. It cost about €20 each (there are no differences between children and adults) but it allowed us to travel anywhere at any time for 24 hours and you really will make the most of it.

The Grand Canal

Our first vaporetto experience was on the Grand Canal. We caught the water bus from the ticket office and we cruised leisurely down the Grand Canal stopping off at all of the stops along the way. As we were first on, we had great seats at the back of the boat in the open part and this allowed the girls to take in the unique beauty of Venice. We stared in awe as we passed the most beautiful buildings lining the canal. I didn’t even bother starting with the history or cultural information and just allowed the girls to enjoy everything they could take in around them.

Trust me, that’s not all of my photos but you get the idea!

Piazza San Marco

venice in one day with kids

Our decision was to stop off at Piazza San Marco and take a walk through the alleyways from the ferry stop to the main square. There is also a public toilet closeby which came in very handy. We walked through the bustling lanes taking in Valentino, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana shop fronts. We were mesmerised with the elite fashion around us. I looked up ahead and through an archway and took in my first glimpse that day of San Marco Square, it really does make your heart beat faster. We walked the girls towards the entrance, Megan was already bubbling with excitement and I took their reactions in as they walked onto one of the most beautiful and iconic squares in the world.

The girls were awestruck. The marvel of what they were taking in stamped on their tiny faces. Piazza San Marco is enormous, as we stepped through the archway onto the square which was relatively empty we walked over to the centre so to get a good view of the place.

There was an orchestra playing to filled tables outside one of the cafes, queues of people lining up to visit the iconic buildings around the edge and hundreds of tourists vying for the best Selfie spot. The girls got their phones out and joined in taking photos left right and centre. All I could hear was ‘Wow’ and ‘Look mum!’

We strolled through the square up to the cathedral and round to the Doge’s’s Palace. We didn’t want to lose any of our precious time queueing for visits but vowed to return with them one day and make time to visit the beautiful buildings and learn the history.

venice in one day with kids

We crossed a bridge and took a photo of the Bridge of Sighs and just a bit further along was the ferry point for the crossing to Murano and Burano.

Burano – the colourful island of Venice

venice in one day with kids

We knew that we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of walking as the little people could only handle so much and Venice is BIG. So on the advice of one of Megan’s friend’s who lives in Venice we had to choose between Murano – the island of the glass blowing or Burano – the colourful island adored on Instagram.

We jumped on the ferry (included in our 1-day Vaporetto ticket) and sat down to enjoy the 45-minute journey. It’s the perfect time to tuck into your picnic and the girls were able to roam the ferry safely and report back on their findings.

venice in one day with kids

Burano will catch your attention before landing as the Vaporetto makes its way along the coastline towards the doc. The island is a burst of colour in the middle of the blue lagoon. The individually painted houses are one brighter than the next all crying out for your attention. We docked quickly and without a map, we started walking to the centre.

Burano is the island of lace and there are plenty of shops to invest in local pieces costing form a €5 bookmark to €???? tablecloths, dresses and fine art.

venice in one day with kids

As you head towards the centre you quickly discover the island is crisscrossed with canals which in turn are adorned with brightly painted boats. Burano must be the birthplace of the rainbow there isn’t a surface on the island that hasn’t seen a paintbrush.

We treated ourselves to a drink/ice cream in one of the squares and then had to walk very quickly back to the dock so as not to miss our ferry. We were incredibly sad to leave and have vowed to book a room on the island next time.

venice in one day with kids

From the dock to the station

A word of advice is not to underestimate the walk from the dock where the boat deposits you back to the station. The beauty of the cheap ticket is the price but if you fail to catch your train, you will have to pay extra and on top of our super expenditure, that’s one thing we wanted to avoid.

It’s a half an hour walk and Megan, with Google maps on her phone, walked us through the alleys towards the station. She did such a great job we were able to enjoy an Aperol Spritz/coca cola before catching the train.

Saving money tips for a day in Venice

Book your train tickets online, there are some fantastic deals to be had.

Take a packed lunch and bottles of water – each of the girls carried their own small water bottle which we would fill at the water fountains.

Book any entrance tickets and times to popular tourist sights online, you’ll be able to walk right in and avoid the queues.

Verdict:

This experience is one that has stayed with the girls. They say it was the best part of their summer holiday this year and one of the best things they have ever done.

Read also: Paris in one day

Capri day trip

I’m not sure why but I thought I’d never see the Island of Capri. You see, it is a luxury destination where world-known celebrities hang out and overpaid footballers buy enormous mansions with personal football pitches.

It is the island where Sophia Loren swam in the Grotta Azzura (Blue Cave) with Clark Gable in the film, ‘It Started in Naples’. This tiny dot of limestone rock, I’d just assumed to be impossible to ever visit.

So should you ever be taking a short break in Sorrento and you have some spare time, I would wholeheartedly recommend a day trip to the Island of Capri.

The ferry runs a few times a day and tickets can be bought down near the harbour in Sorrento. We strolled down one morning and queued up alongside a melting pot of tourists from every corner of the planet.Those armed with guidebooks, who with cameras and some with just a curious mind.

Day trip Island of Capri

Giuseppe our Italian guide – note the license around his neck.

Day Trip to the Island of Capri

As we hung around the piazza waiting for our ferry, an Italian gentleman approached. Giuseppe asked if we would be interested in his services for the day. He explained he had been a licensed guide for 50 odd years and had been accompanying people to the island since. He explained the route he would take, the places we would visit, the places we could eat and his price which was reasonable. I managed to convince our group and we were taken under Giuseppe’s wing.

It was the best decision, his advice started on the crossing. On spotting the choppy sea, he indicated to sit towards the back for a better ride. We did as we were instructed and survived a crossing that made many others very ill indeed.

capri day trip

Arrival to the island is in the bustling port of Marina Grande. I found it fascinating, there were bellboys from the luxury hotels, collecting guests and their luggage from the various, ferries, yachts and water taxis. The customers were taken in open top taxis to their destinations and their luggage followed.

Capri day trip

Everything on the island has to be imported from the mainland, the food and drink even the buses and building materials.

Capri luggage taxis

Chambermaids, barmen, waiters and shop assistants all travel over daily to work on the island as there is nowhere to stay overnight. Property is way too expensive to put staff up in!
Giuseppe shuffled us and another ten guests onto a bus and we drove off to our first sightseeing point along a narrow and winding road with a sheer drop to one side.

Anacapri

day trip island of capri

Those green stickers on our t-shirts Giuseppe gave us so he could remember his customers :) 

There is a short walk from where the bus drops you at Anacapri and you follow a path through souvenir shops up around the side of the highest point until you stand and look down over Capri. It is a breathtaking moment,  below you can make out the mansions with their football pitches I was telling you about earlier. You can see the dot of a harbour that we had been in half an hour ago and you can take in the lush green vegetation against the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

If you wish, you can walk down 100s steps past the mansions, back to the harbour. We didn’t, Giuseppe had arranged for us to continue our journey after a stop for lunch. ‘Pausa pranzo’

The lunch was in a busy restaurant on the walk we had taken up and the menu was basic but cheap. There wasn’t any time in Giuseppe’s schedule for luxurious long lunches which would have been very nice, so we obliged and enjoyed a decent meal with wine for a few euros before making our way back to the meeting point.

Now it was time to drive over to Capri the second main town on the island.

Capri

On the way over to the town Capri, Giuseppe asked the driver to stop after one of the bends in the winding road. He’d been telling us about famous people who had lived on the island or who had a holiday home here. Property prices are eye watering but the views are stunning. Fortunately for us, the sun came out at this point. That is Punta di Tragara in the distance.

Marina Piccola Capri

We drove on to our last stop. Giuseppe would be leaving us here but included in his fee were tickets to catch the cable car from Capri down to the harbour, Marina Grande where we would catch our ferry home. We had some time to explore the town during our day trip and what a beautiful place it is.

Piazzetta Capri

Designer shops line the cobbled stone streets, posh hotels, world class restaurants and pizzerias with photos of Simon Cowell and other famous faces in the window. The buildings are whitewashed and the shops are full of luxurious items. It’s another world.

Capri day trip

 

Carthusia

Carthusia perfume CApri

When you visit Capri, you will see the word Carthusia everywhere. It’s the name of the perfume company from Capri and you will spot signs everywhere. They sponsored the town’s flower displays, they have scent smelling stations set up and there are shops where you can choose and buy your personal favourite. I wish I had! I shall return to Capri one day to visit Carthusia. Note the small table with jars in the photo above, they are the scents to smell and decide.

Town square

Piazzetta Capri

Sit in one of the squares long enough and sooner or later you will spot a celebrity stopping for an espresso, an aperitivo or just to savour the moment, maybe with a limonata, the soft drink that is so popular in this part of the world. We didn’t stop at this bar as we were curious to walk around the town and see what we could discover. We weren’t disappointed.

Capri cable car

Piazzetta in Capri

One exciting way to get back down to Marina Grande is by the cable car. Just by the main Piazzetta there is a wonderful terrace with garlands around the pillars. Right next to that you will see the word funiculare, and that is the entrance to the cable car. As you descend you have a fantastic view of the harbour below and the sea stretching out in front.

capri cable car

Capri aperitivo

If there is one last tip I must pass on it is to make time to sit in one of the bars in the Marina Grande harbour, order a Capri aperitivo (which you can see here  – Blue for the Grotto Azure) and watch the world go by. There is a hive of activity passing right in front of you and people from all walks of life walking and looking at the cheap souvenir shops lining the streets.

Bar Aprea Capri

Capri is well worth a visit and I look forward to returning one day … maybe even staying over one night and going for a pizza…

Sorrento ItalyI can’t believe a year has passed since we went to Sorrento and I still haven’t got around to writing about it. That just goes to prove how hard it is juggling a blog and a full-time job… oh and an extended family, a house, a home and all of the other bits and pieces that go in to make the normal run-of-the-mill life. There is never enough time in the day!

We visited last year, just Paul and I, to attend our friend’s wedding. Trust me, Sorrento makes a wonderfully romantic venue for tieing the knot.

Although I lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I never got to see Sorrento and the surrounding area. I had heard of its beauty many times and knew it was extremely popular the world over. Sorrento was firmly on my bucket list and our wedding invitation was the perfect occasion to tick it off.

Cloisters Sorrento

The Cloisters in Sorrento is the perfect wedding venue.

As the wedding was to be held on the Saturday, we decided to ask the grandparents to look after the girls for a few days and make a short break out of it, after all, what’s the point of going all that way to turn around and come straight back? I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing the places I had heard so much about.

lemon tree sorrento

When anyone speaks of Sorrento in Italy, you hear descriptive words like lemons, music, stunning views and romance – in Italian obviously but I’ll save you that for now. I had conjured up a meraviglioso picture in my mind and I was curious to see how close my thoughts were to reality.

Getting to Sorrento

Getting to Sorrento is fun. We booked flights into Naples – another notorious city I want to return to one day. Then from the city you have a few options – hire a car and drive along the coast, jump on a coach or bus, get a taxi or take the ferry and sail around the coast to the harbour of Sorrento. Guess which option we went for?

The ferry!

Naples to Sorrento ferry

In order to do this, you have to catch a bus from the airport to Naples harbour. It’s not difficult and there are plenty of instructions online in places like TripAdvisor. It’s cheap and easy and on arrival, there are plenty of places where you can buy your ticket. All of them speak English and will be able to direct you to the right dock.

There are various ferries and we caught the one above. It meant we had to sit inside and couldn’t see much out of the windows that were covered in sea salt but there was a great Italian waiter who was selling drinks and snacks, so we bought a couple of beers to get into the holiday mood.

Cheers to being a couple for a few days and cin cin to Italia!

The ferry doesn’t take long and our friends due to marry were waiting in the harbour for us, they had been there a couple of days already, as stated by Italian law when you get married in the country.

Sorrento harbour Italy

Wheeling the suitcase into town – luckily there’s a lift in the cliff!

We stopped for drinks with them and then made our way via a lift in the cliff up to the town and on to our hotel with plans to meet later for dinner.

Hotels in Sorrento

We did what everyone does – pump ‘Hotels in Sorrento’ into the search box and click go. Up came the normal sites and after a few days of research, we decided on Hotel Europa. It was walking distance from the centre, situated on the coast and had some great reviews.

Hotel Europa Palace Sorrento

We weren’t disappointed – apart from the noise from the road, the Sorrentini do love to hit their hooters! The hotel had a charm of years-gone-by. I could imagine being here in the 20’s and being part of the ‘in crowd’. Our bedroom was comfortable and there were some lovely facilities, like the swimming pool and beach.

Hotel Europa Sorrento

Places to eat in Sorrento

We had booked bed and breakfast as we knew we’d be out and about during the days and eating with our friends in the evenings. We needn’t have worried as Sorrento is a town full of restaurants, pizzerias, bars and various eateries to suit all pockets. The streets are lined with choice – fish, pasta, pizza, meat, you name it, you can find it and freshly cooked too with wonderful waiting service. Prices are reasonable plus, if you’re lucky, there is a glass of limoncello offered by the house with the bill. Salute!

eating in Sorrento

Shopping in Sorrento

If like me, you like to buy things to take home that remind you of your time spent in a place, you won’t be disappointed. Sorrento has streets and alleys lined with shops selling everything you’d imagine to buy; leather, limoncello, ceramics, oil paintings and much more. I adored the handmade leather sandals, typical to the area but couldn’t verify spending €100 on a pair no matter how beautiful they were. Reluctantly leaving the overpriced sandals to one side, I filled our suitcase with limoncello, an oil painting, a leather purse, a beautiful scarf and plenty more bits and pieces.

You will love the shopping!

shopping in sorrento

Things to do in Sorrento

There are plenty of romantic things to do in Sorrento – getting married has to be the best by far! But we also enjoyed beautiful walks along the stunning coastline, through the town and stopping on the clifftops to watch the sunset is a must. There’s a wide terrace where people congregate to watch the sun descend over the sea, luckily there is a bar there too, so order an Aperol spritz and enjoy the moment.

sunset in Sorrento

sunset in sorrento

Fun things to do in Sorrento

Sorrento is beautifully positioned as the perfect base for exploring the area and on our 4-night break we managed to fit in Vesuvio, Pompei and the Island of Capri which I shall be writing about separately as they were so impressive.

Enjoy some of my favourite photos that I took in Sorrento.

short break sorrento

 

Folgaria mountain view

The time has come, I am preparing my ‘valigie’ for a quick trip to Folgaria. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I am going to meet my grandaughter Sophie for the first time. I am going to see Evan and Gracey for the first time in over a year, I am going to hug my kids Tommy and Meggie so hard they pop and a special hug to Oana my daughter in law too who took these wonderful photographs.

La Cantina Folgaria

I can’t wait to meet up with my friends again, you know the ones, you pick off exactly where you left off as if a day hasn’t gone by since you last spoke, let alone a year. And I’m going to revisit my ‘other home’ the place I grew up in, from a teen into an adult and spent the best part of 20 years.

Folgaria street party

I haven’t returned to Folgaria ‘summer season’ since I left and coincidentally I left in the sunny August of 2004.

Folgaria in the summer is beautiful and has so much to offer families, there are lots of things I am looking forward to cramming in during my 5 day break and here are some of them to give you an idea of what to expect from a mountain holiday in the Italian Dolomites.

Folgaria gift shops

  • A cable car to the top of Stella d’Italia which offers spectacular views across the tops of the dolomites. I can also say hello to Francesca (from Manchester) who has lived out there longer than me and her son went to school with Tommy. I saw the other day on Folgaria News she now caters for wedding parties too.
  • Take the girls to drink a proper hot chocolate known as a Cioccolata calda, expect a photo of it on Instagram.
  • Order and eat an Eis Cafe or Iced Coffee, here’s one I made when reminiscing one day.
  • Visit the boutiques in town and buy some gorgeous Italian clothes.
  • Drink some of my very favourite wines and visit La Cantina for an evening out with the girls like old times.
  • Try some of the local restaurants. Ristorante da Ugo, Maso Mittereck,
  • Visit Hotel Post Folgaria to see my brother and sister in-law and eat one of his delicious home made brioche or maybe a slice of his apple strudle.
  • Take a trip up to Malga Millegrobbe say hello to Max and eat some of is delicious food.
  • Take photos of the flower boxes lining every nook and cranny in town.
  • Go to the top of the mountain at night time with a blanket and lie down to watch and count the shooting stars.

folgaria night

There is plenty more and I have every intention to blog daily from my second home but you know how it is, I may get waylaid with the write ups, however I shall be documenting my stay on Instagram so if you’re interested in a Mountain break, summer or winter then please do keep an eye out for what to expect.

My friend Emma from A Bavarian Sojourn went to stay a few days with her family and you can find out how she got on here

Folgaria

A focus on Folgaria

Folgaria Eats

Empty beach at Bibione

Empty beach at Bibione via Shutterstock

I am going to indulge in my love of Italy today as this is the time of year I see all my Italian friends post their holiday photos on Facebook and it takes me back to the holidays I enjoyed whilst living there.

Bibione, such a lovely word to say, is on the northern Adriatic coast not far from Venice. It’s a very popular destination as it is so easy to get to and it is totally geared up for families. Bibione has been celebrating family holidays since the first hotels went up in the 50’s and you’ll find some of them have been passed down through the family from generation to generation.

This family run business has so many pros to offer the guests, a personal and individual touch where the hosts recognise the needs of various families and are quick to satisfy them.

The Beach

Bibione is a long straight flat beach stretching into the distance with fine, soft sand. The hotels and ‘bagnini‘ aka lifeguards have rows and rows of umbrellas laid out for the guests but as the beach is so vast there is a lot of space between one umbrella and the next, plenty of privacy for families to enjoy themselves without feeling crammed in. You’ll be pleased to know that an umbrella and two sun loungers are included in your hotel booking which is a great saving on a family holiday.

A typical day in Bibione

We would choose a family hotel with a swimming pool often by the beach. As we went to breakfast Tommy, my oldest, would run down the beach with a couple of beach towels and place them on the umbrella closest to the water’s edge, a necessary tactic when it is busy and you want to keep your eyes on the kids who of course want to be near the water ;)

Mornings would be spent on the beach, I’d be able to read my book on the sun lounger and watch the kids play by the water’s edge. The beaches are amazingly well equipped with first aid, life guarding, baby changing stations, hot showers, walkways for strollers, play areas for kids and free games and entertainment. A mid morning espresso at the local beach bar with a glass of water was a great way to get myself off the sun lounger.

I must mention the sea at Bibione has obtained it’s 24th blue flag this year. Wooohooo!

When it started to get too hot we’d go back to the swimming pool and rest in the shade as we waited for lunch. Yes, full board includes a three course lunch with a huge choice and a magnificent salad buffet. My tip is watch out as the food is so good you’ll be piling on the pounds. ;)

Italian summers are very hot and straight after lunch is the ideal time to read in your room or make use of the hotel indoor facilities. We would head down to the beach from 3pm onwards and stay till 6 pm or later depending on our evening arrangements.

What else is there to do in Bibione?

Tons.

Sailing, kayaking, playing fields and courts for the sporty. Bike riding inland and around the lagoon, nature watching around the lagoon. Bird watching for heron and storks. Fishing valleys, a lighthouse to visit and century old woods to explore.

Day trips from Bibione

Venice is a stone’s throw away and of course so are Murano and Burano which are incredibly beautiful. Verona, Vicenza, Padova and Treviso are all within a day’s trip and each of these Italian cities of the pianura are beautiful in their own individual ways.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Bibione which I truly recommend as a perfect family holiday.