Visiting the city of Venice, Italy is a sensory experience, with the sharp taste of salt packed in the air, the constant wind, the cobblestone underneath one’s feet, and candy for the eyes everywhere. Though pegged as a city for lovers, many families, including families with autism, can find many things to do. Here are our favorite places to visit in Venice.
Tour St. Marks Basilica
St. Marks Basilica is a definite must see. Located in Venice’s major square, the Cathedral is hard to miss with its blue and gold decorations and the crowd of tourist snapping photos. The structure is a cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice and to this day is one of the most famous churches in the city.
Construction originally started in 828 after Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria and were completed in 832. The church survived a couple of fires and experienced many renovations.The facade of the cathedral is an original blend of styles, making St. Marks Basilica a prime example of Italian-Byzantine architecture. The gleaming golden mosaics greet guests as they peer up to the ceiling, striking a sense of awe into travelers.
Traverse the Grand Canal
Whether they ride in a hand carved gondola or a more budget friendly Vaporetto taking a boat ride along the canals is a ‘must do’ activity that all visitors should scratch off their bucket list. Crossing the Grand Canal is a fun and romantic way to see the city highlights, traveling the way locals have for hundreds of years.
Walk Across the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges in Venice and by far the oldest. At the time the Rialto was the only connection between the districts of San Marco and San Polo, allowing merchants and travelers to walk from one area to the other.
Originally constructed from wood, the bridge collapsed twice, and was later redesigned in stone. Antonio da Ponte designed the current bridge paying tribute to the original wooden design. The engineering of the bridge, completed in 1591, was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted the bridge to fail in later years. Still, the bridge stands as one of the architectural icons of Venice.
Explore the Teatro La Fenice
The Teatro La Fenice or Phoenix Opera House is one of the most renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theater. In the nineteenth century, it became the location of many premieres of masterpieces by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi. After suffering from two fire incidences, the opera house was rebuilt and named Teatro La Fenice as a reference of how the establishment rose from the ashes.
Experience Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
Near the Basilica, travelers can find the brilliant white and pink Doge’s Palace. This place, which was once the seat of Venetian government, is dazzling with real gold embellishments around the frescoes. The palace still has many of its rooms intact, such as the armory with old weapons and battle paintings. Brave kids can check out the dungeons after crossing the Bridge of Sighs.
Enjoy a Refreshing Gelato
Parents and kids alike who love ice cream should try a refreshing gelato from one of the cities many gelaterias. For the best gelato and a lovely view of the Giudecca Canal, travelers should visit Gelateria Nico. The staff always have a smile for the kids, and the cold stuff is delicious.
Look for the Hidden Lions
When people travel to Disneyland, they search for hidden Mickeys. In Venice, travelers can find hidden lions. The winged Lions of Venice dot the city’s landscape, all along statues, door handles, gates, sculptures, and even in the gondolas. These lions represent St. Mark, the principal patron saint of Venice, whose body was buried in the Basilica of San Marco.
Go Shopping for a Souvenir
What trip is complete without shopping? Venice has a lot of fun shopping areas. Travelers can get gondola and boat models in plastic or wood. Many of the shops carry masks and gondolier hats. Moreover, Venice along with its neighbor Murano is known for its glass work, so families interested should look for little animals, vases, earrings, and rings all made out of glass.
Autism Travel Tips:
- The Cathedral is frequently crowded with tourists. Families should try to visit the Cathedral during less busy times, typically early or late in the day.
- It is customary to lower one’s voice or stay quiet inside the Cathedral out of respect. Parents should make sure their child knows to be respectful and use their “indoor voice” while here.
- Venice is famous for its glass work. However, these glass souvenirs are breakable, which can present a danger to younger kids.
- Audio guided tours are available for those visiting the opera house.
- The opera house can get rather crowded. Families who might have an issue with this should plan a day and time when the opera house will be less busy.
- Gondola rides are expensive. While not as romantic as a gondola ride, families can also take a water bus ( Vaporetto) to travel the city on a budget.