Sara Grinzato
Article by Sara Grinzato

Books for kids: reading and learning about Venice


As a mom, a tourist guide, an author… and a picky traveler myself, I like to read in advance when I prepare journeys with my kids. And, to be honest, children’s literature is one of my hidden passions!

Here is short list of English books on Venice I’d suggest for young visitors

The real catalog would be really long. Here comes a view of an insider… and just some of our favorites!

My kids with some of their favorite books on Venice
My kids with some of their favorite books on Venice

For very young kids: novels and coloring books

Olivia goes to Venice (Ian Falconer, 2011).
The book itself does not provide deep contents. Nevertheless, it focuses on the basic things that young children from all over the world are fascinated by: gondolas, masks, gelato, glass! And believe me, your kids will be upset when they go to Piazza San Marco and they hear that the bell tower seriously collapsed in 1902… but not because of Olivia!

When in Venice, you might need nice activity books to both entertain your kids and let them learn about the history of the city. This is a simple kids’ coloring one: Paola Zoffoli, Leo & Zanni. Autunno a Venezia. Leggo e coloro le 4 stagioni (though in Italian, pictures are easy to color).

Venice by James Maclaine (Usborne, always a guarantee! Highly suggested) is instead a beautiful sticker book!

One page from Olivia goes to Venice (Ian Falconer, 2011)
One page from Olivia goes to Venice (Ian Falconer, 2011)

For all ages

A classic, perfect for all ages, is The fable of the Good Lion by Ernest Hemingway. Again, it is a novel, not a guide, but I believe it is good way to start making your kids curious about Venice. They will focus on the symbology of Venice, especially on the winged lion, which they can better learn about when in Venice, for example with a kid-oriented guided tour (see for instance what I offer: http://www.guidedvenice.com/en/itineraries/kids-in-venice/the-perfect-introduction-to-venice).

Good and well illustrated general guides that I can recommend are: Elisabetta Pasqualin, Venice for kids; Alberta Garini, A kids’ guide to Venice. They briefly describe most sights, and can be a good help while you walk around in exploration.

The mappa di Venezia (Map of Venice) by Italyforkids is also a great instrument! I use it all the times when I travel to major cities with my children. It has nice hints, and lovely stickers: trust me, they will not forget to search for things around, and would love to go on and on seeing museums and churches, in order to paste the stickers on the map!

Reading Hemingway’s The fable of the Good Lion
Reading Hemingway’s The fable of the Good Lion

For over 9 or 10-year old children

There are two excellent books (I am sure most parents will love them also) to learn about the history and culture of Venice.

The first is by Giorgio Gianighian, Paola Pavanini, Venice: The Basics (Gambier&Keller, 2010). A perfect description of how Venice was made in the middle of a marsh! How things worked in the past versus the way they work today… how houses are built, bridges, wells and much more! Truly interesting, and with amazing illustrations!  

The second is about the most famous Venetian in history: Marco Polo. Ioan Holub’s Who was Marco Polo? is an brilliant historic book, very well written, which narrates the adventurous life of this Venetian merchant. It is the perfect way to get to know what a superpower Venice was in the Middle Ages. Then, if you come to Venice, you might desire to book a tour about Marco Polo and learn even more (see here my scavenger hunt: http://www.guidedvenice.com/en/itineraries/kids-in-venice/the-game-of-marco-polo)

Reading a page from Venice: The Basics (Gambier&Keller, 2010)
Reading a page from Venice: The Basics (Gambier&Keller, 2010)

PLAYVENICE: A book written by Venice guides that love to lead families!

Imagine an evil scientist that wants to destroy Venice. Imagine he has been using all means possible to make it sink, fill it with water, ruin its beauties with garbage. His name is Zeviena, and the heroes of this book are… the kids that visit Venice!

The authors, Monica Latini and Sara Grinzato (that’s me!), are intimately convinced that young generations will have to work hard to save Venice from important challenges, and only if they learn about it they will develop an idea of how historically important this city is, and how crucial it is to save it for the human kind.

The book is structured as a gamebook: you need to read it when you are in Venice, visiting the most famous sights. The book provides information about Piazza San Marco, the Ducal Palace and the Church of Saint Mark. Kids (and parents) can decide what to read and where to go, like in a videogame! Readers will have to face with numerous activities, and collect scores! In the end… visitors will stop Zeviena, make him turn good and love Venice, too!

One notice: if possible, as it is a book that you need while visiting, buy it from local bookstores, to help supporting local shops and activities! Thank you!

Play Venice by Sara Grinzato and Monica Latini (Linea Edizioni, 2020)
Play Venice by Sara Grinzato and Monica Latini (Linea Edizioni, 2020)

If you enjoyed reading this post, or if you bought our “Play Venice” book, let me have your feedback at info@guidedvenice.com!

Sara Grinzato