Debbie and I adore Venice. We had visited only two years before during Carnevale (when fancy dress and masks are the order of the day) for a weekend break without the children and fell in love with the place. So we’d been wanting to come back with the kids ever since.
With our new found love of guided tours we arranged the Best of Venice and Doge’s Palace tour with City Wonders . We have found that we get so much more from a tour, finding out things that we probably never would if we were on our own. Debbie and I had visited the Doge’s palace before however we found out so much more about the history on the tour.
Technically these are two separate tours that run back to back but we wanted to do both of them as did all of the other people in our group.
We met in Campo San Bartolomeo early in the morning and were put into our group where we met Mosé, our guide for the morning. Mosé explained that his name was the Italian for Moses and that it was a very rare name in Italy.
An informative stroll around Venice
Once we had our headphones (like the City Wonders tour of the Colosseum in Rome, these were the in-ear type and not particularly comfortable for the children so bring your own) on we set off for the first part, a walking tour of Venice.
We visited a number of places including the Rialto Bridge, Marco Polo’s house and some beautiful squares.
As we walked around Mosé gave us a running commentary pointing out interesting places and monuments and providing us the history of Venice and other really interesting facts. For instance he explained how the nobility would have lived, how the Venetians collected rain water in the squares for drinking water and what you can tell about the fate of someone based on how their horse is positioned on their statue.
A visit to St Marks Square and Basilica
The first part of the tour culminated in a visit to St. Mark’s Square and the basilica. City Wonders provide skip-the-line tickets for the basilica and we were thankful they do, the main queue was huge and we would have been waiting for a good few hours to get in.
The basilica is beautiful and well worth a visit. Our tour included access to the upstairs section where you can get close up to the amazing golden mosaics and also go out onto the balcony to take in the wonderful views over St Mark’s square and across the lagoon to Lido.
The opulent Doge’s Palace
The second tour continued straight after we left the basilica. We headed around the corner to the Doge’s Palace. Again there were skip-the-line tickets and again we were grateful for this. We were also grateful that the short queue we were in was sheltered from the sun as the temperatures were in the 30s at this stage – far too hot for us Sligo natives!
The tour took us around the palace visiting the various rooms with their magnificent artwork, the stairwells with their opulent gold ceilings and the armoury where there was a large collection of suits of armour and fearsome weapons.
Again, Mosé regaled us with tales of the Doges and Venetian life back in the time when the palace would have been the administrative centre of the Republic of Venice.
This tour finished up with a walk over the famous Bridge of Sighs, allegedly so named as the prisoners would have sighed as they were led over and could see Venice for the last time through small windows in the bridge. This took us into the dungeons where the prisoners of the Republic would have been held, quite a sobering experience.
Overall we found the tour excellent, though it was quite long for the kids and the fierce heat didn’t help. We were very glad of the break at the start of the Doge’s palace where we were able to buy cold drinks and a snack to keep us going. Mosé was very knowledgable and interacted well with the group.
If you are in Venice and want to find out more about the amazing history of the place that you don’t get just from wandering, we would highly recommend this City Wonders tour.
Disclaimer – Thank you to City Wonders for providing us with a free tour of Venice for the purposes of this review.
This review is, as always, 100% honest and our own opinion.