Kid friendly tour in Venice with Macaco Tour.
The following blog post is a review of a tour provided by Macaco Tour. We were provided the tour free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Here at Swiss Family Travel, we accept free tours and hotel stays as a service to our readers.
Before we embarked on our trip to Venice last weekend, I performed my usual pre-holiday research on interesting activities we could do while in this historic city, and as usual, I came up with far too many options. We had a diverse group—5 kids aged 3 - 16, myself and my husband. Should we focus on history? Food? Children’s activities?
Venice is brimming with history and intrigue, and once I started researching tour options it actually became even more confusing. So when Martina from Macaco Tour contacted me to see if we were interested in taking a tour with them, I felt the universe had spoken and I jumped on the opportunity to put the decision into the hands of an expert.
We made plans to meet our tour guide behind the Santa Maria Formosa church at 1pm. We chose the 1pm meeting time rather than an earlier time in order make sure we had enough time to take the ferry over to Venice from our campground and find our meeting point. I had no idea if it would be difficult to navigate Venice so I planned for the worst, but as it turned my concerns were unfounded. It was really quite simple. We ended up arriving into Venice at 9am, and so by the time our tour rolled around, we had already explored lots of small streets on our own.
Over the course of the morning I could see the kids energy level beginning to wane and I started to get a little worried about their level of enthusiasm for the tour we had scheduled. The kids were already exhausted from all the exploring we did, and to be honest, all of us were ready to go back to camp. But as luck would have it we found a great little pizza take away shop where we were able to fuel up and revive ourself in time for the tour.
When it was time to go we headed off for the Santa Maria Formosa church and immediately spotted our tour guide Valentina and her red folder. We were provided with her phone number at the time we booked the tour just in case we couldn’t find her, but luckily we didn’t need it. As we walked toward Valentina I quickly reminded the older kids to be on the their best behaviour. The kids were a little hesitant about taking a tour. In their young minds, no tour could be fun. Their hesitations quickly evaporated.
From the moment we met Valentina she was enthusiastic and talked directly to the kids about the tour. They immediately warmed to her. Little Z was the first to jump in with her comments and soon, one by one, the other four followed. Martina had organised the “Sketch treasure hunt” tour in order suit the wide age range we represented - from little Z (age 3) a to my nephew (age 15).
Valentina started off by explaining how Venice came to be built on water and told about the building process that began with wooden stumps in the lagoon. My son is an aspiring engineer and he found it fascinating that a city could be built on a foundation of mud, wood and stones.
Soon Valentina was rolling out the rules for the treasure hunt we were about to embark on. She handed us a map, pictures of things we needed to find, and an activity for each stop along the way. With 12 clues to get us to the treasure, we enthusiastically got started.
We wandered our way through the streets, behind churches and over bridges. We looked high, low, and in places we would have normally just walked past without even taking notice. We found hidden messages built into the railing of a bridge, enabling the Venetians to secretly proclaim their support for Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of a unified Italy. We found door handles with carved faces that served as merchant identifiers centuries ago that also gave us a clue today as to who could have lived in the building. And how could we forget the bookstore, filled with secondhand books in bathtubs and gondolas, with a special surprise in its back courtyard (take the tour, and you’ll find out what it is!). My 12 year old came up in between clues and whispered in my ear “This is amazing, it’s so interesting!”
As we found clue 12 and answered the question correctly, we were handed a key to open the treasure. The whereabouts of the treasure and its contents will remain a secret for us to know and for you to find out; we don’t want to spoil your adventure!
By the end of the tour, Valentina felt like an old friend and the kids, especially little Z, were so sad to leave her. Z had grabbed on to Valentina’s hand and held on tightly for most of the tour - a true sign of how comfortable she felt with her. We couldn’t let her go without a group photo and then she gave us a clue for another treasure hunt: the search for fabulous gelato!
My boy says hands down that his favourite part was following the map. He was in heaven. My tweenie loved the story about the mask put on the church tower to scare away the devil. As a Mum I loved that the kids were learning something without even realizing it!
WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
The only thing we would have done differently is to perhaps organise an earlier tour time. The meeting point was easy to find and I think our day in Venice would have been more enjoyable overall if we had the knowledge which came from the tour when we explored on our own. Saying that, the tour was a great way to re-energise the kids and get over the post lunch slump.
If you visit Venice, I highly recommend taking a tour to be able to fully appreciate the history, and with Macaco Tour it was all the more fun for the kids. Hats off to Valentina for transferring her enthusiasm, knowledge, and love for her city to our children. They’re already asking where our next treasure hunt is going to be!