Venice is a maze of medieval streets and meandering waterways and allowing yourself to get lost in its narrow alleyways is one of the best ways to experience its charm. However, there is no denying that Venice’s labyrinthine structure is also a bit of a pain so, during our last trip, we decided to mix some independent exploration with a guided tour. Our choice fell on Wanderjack.
Wanderjack is an Italian tour operator specialising in travel services and multi-day itineraries in Venice and its region (and Sicily too) and I first heard about it from its founder Elena. A traveller at heart, Elena created Wanderjack to offer to visitors authentic experiences that mix culture, nature and food and to do this they draft itineraries that mix guided activities with free time, tailoring the advice for each type of traveller.
They cater for ‘the heartpacker’, the traveller who likes to mix discovery and relaxation (think exploration, followed by a glass of high-quality local wine), for ‘tracker jack’ who is sporty and adventurous, ‘wise jack’ who likes to travel slow and of course ‘family jack’, the traveller that thought kids were an asset and not an obstacle to travel.
To us, she recommended her family programme and since we had only one day in Venice she agreed to give us a taste of what they do offering us a guided tour of the city.
Highlights of our day in Venice with Wanderjack:
- Friendly, local, knowledgeable guide
- Kid-friendly tour, with the little attentions that make kids engage (kids map, explorer stickers, frequent stops etc)
- Great mix of stops to please adults and kids. In perfect Learning Escapes style, Wanderjack wants the tour to be fun for all participants
- Full flexibility of itinerary to accommodate interests and energy levels
Venice with Wanderjack: our review
We met with our guide Susanna and the Wanderjack team on our last day in Venice, on a cold but sunny morning that seemed designed for city exploration.
I like to think of us as a pretty low maintenance family but I must admit we posed a bit of a challenge to our poor guide: Phil lately had difficulties walking because of a sports injury and Mr M was unusually cranky and tired (he turned out to be sick) so I started our tour profusing myself in apologies – I always feel for a guide who puts in a lot of effort and finds an uncooperative client!
Susanna however quickly reassured me: she had prepared an itinerary with many possible stops and had the perfect approach to Mr M: she continuously let him know that he could join the activity without ever forcing it and this worked like a charm – while Little Ms E took to the tour straight away (she took Susanna’s hand and never let it go!), Mr M was able to dip in and out and managed to have a good morning despite being under the weather.
The tour was a mix between a guided tour of the city and a scavenger hunt for the kids. Susanna had prepared for the children two kid-friendly maps with drawings of the local landmarks, masks and highlights, and showed them a little box full of photos of Venice: the photos were the different locations we would have to find and she promised an explorer sticker for each one they would find.
The tour was a comprehensive walk that covered several types of attractions, from churches to squares and canals and it was interesting to see how it catered for absolutely everyone of us: after each activity, I always make a point to ask each person in the family what they liked the most (I feel it’s a good way to get us to focus on the moment at hand and fix good memories) and got the following answers:
Philip loved la Chiesa dei Frari, a stunning church we had completely missed during our first trip and that holds several masterpieces including a monument to Canova built but its disciples.
Mr M loved the outdoor skating rink we stumbled onto and the ‘secret canal‘ Susanna showed us and that ‘magically’ suddenly disappeared. He was also partial to the seagulls we saw at the Rialto fish market, who were busy polishing off the remains of the morning trade!
Little Ms E was in love with Susanna’s box of images and took great pride in finding each location first.
I personally loved that the tour included stops in local eateries, where we tasted the most amazing local food.
I love food tours but I struggle to find ones that are suitable for kids too, so this was the perfect solution: while food wasn’t the main focus of the day, we stopped to get fried fish and then we defrosted in a chocolatier who produced chocolate of all kids and hold a recipe that dates back to the 1700s!
It was a special treat and once again the kind of place we would not have found on our own (to my shame, I must admit we did fall into a couple of tourist traps when left to our won devices. next time, I will get the Wanderjack team to recommend some addressed!)
The tour brought us through Sestiere San Polo, Rialto and finally finished in St Mark’s square where Elena took the lovely picture of us you see at the top of this post: here we let the kids run loose and terrorise the pigeons who inhabit the square while Susanna told us interesting stories about the city’s history and soon it was for us time to go.
Our holiday in Venice was over and the high-speed train was ready to bring us back to Rome. We had an amazing city break in Venice and for this, we need to thank this wonderful city and the great people at Wanderjack who showed us around with professionalism and enthusiasm and offered us a truly enjoyable day.
If you are planning a trip to Venice and surrounding area and wish to have the help of knowledgeable locals, I highly recommend contacting Wanderjack: their multi-day itineraries cover many aspects of the local culture and a sure way to see Venezia and its region in an authentic, fun and personalised way. I am already looking forward to going with them on the next tour: maybe the next one will be a week in Sicily? I am tempted!