Your whole family can fully engage with Italy on this adventurous itinerary, ideally suited for teens with energy to spare. You'll begin in Venice, where you'll craft Carnival masks and explore the secret passages of the city's famous landmarks. After a stop to wander the streets of Verona, you'll head to the park-lined shores of Lake Garda, filled with attractions for all ages. Finish the tour in the Tuscan city of Siena, your base for hot air balloon rides, hikes, and more.

Highlights

  • Paddle your own gondola over the canals of Venice
  • Explore secret passages beneath the Doge's Palace
  • Soar over the vineyards of Chianti in a hot air balloon
  • Hike the ancient stones of the Via Francigena pilgrimage

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling Venice
Day 2 Venetian Mask Workshop, Doge's Palace & Secret Passages of St. Mark's Basilica Venice
Day 3 Bike Tour on Lido Island, Visit Murano & Burano Venice
Day 4 Venice to Lake Garda via Verona, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour Lake Garda
Day 5 Explore Lake Garda Lake Garda
Day 6 Bike & Picnic in Sigurta Park Lake Garda
Day 7 Lake Garda to Siena via Florence Siena
Day 8 Ballooning Over Chianti With Wagon Ride & Picnic Siena
Day 9 Tuscan Drive & Hiking the Siena Pilgrim Path Siena
Day 10 Siena to Florence & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling

Gondola on the canals
Welcome to Italy! Your journey starts in Venice, where you'll be transferred to your hotel from the airport via private water taxi.
Once you arrive, enjoy an exciting family-friendly gondola ride through Venice’s picturesque canals, one of the most relaxing ways to experience the city’s essence. But this tour puts a spin on the classic activity by placing you behind the oar! With the help of an expert gondolier, you’ll learn how to drive a gondola like a Venetian. It’s a little bit harder than it looks, but it’s definitely a memory you’ll cherish forever. Gondoliers are patient and encouraging—nobody has fallen in yet! 

You’ll start by following your guide through Cannaregio, a quiet and charming section of Venice not too far from the Jewish Ghetto. As you make your way to the canal, you’ll walk away from the city’s main tourist attractions and learn more about the daily life of Venetians. Pass through the Jewish Quarter, once a shelter for Jews during international turmoil, and stop in a typical bacaro to get a true taste of Venice. Enjoy a couple of cicheti (tapas) and a glass of wine or non-alcoholic drink. 

The opportunity to explore Venice as the sun sets and soft evening light reflects on the city's canals should not be missed. We recommend a walking route that begins in the heart of the historic city center at Piazza San Marco and takes you through the lively Cannaregio neighborhood to experience the Venetian culinary tradition of cichetada, which in the local dialect is the combination of bacaro and cicheto, the tour that every Venetian does among the bacari of the city to enjoy a cicheto and drink an ombra de vin (wine shade). 

Rather than crossing the bridge into the Rialto neighborhood, we recommend staying on the west side of the canal and walking to the Cannaregio district where you can mingle with the locals at Bacaro bars and avoid the bigger crowds. When you reach Fondamenta della Misericordia, you’ll encounter bar after bar and people sitting alongside the canal with an aperitivo. This historic area is known as the former Jewish Quarter, where the Jewish Museum of Venice and one of the city's synagogues are located across the canal in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo

Day 2: Venetian Mask Workshop, Doge's Palace & Secret Passages of St. Mark's Basilica 

Venetian courtyard
Carnival masks are one of the most recognizable symbols of Venice in all their shapes, colors, and styles. Venetian artisans still use ancient techniques to craft these papier-mache artworks for theater companies and masquerade balls. Learn some of their arts with a mask-making workshop in a specialty atelier, where you can either start from scratch or decorate a premade mask to add your own touch.
Once you've made your mask, engage in some espionage on a complete tour of the Doge’s Palace. This VIP experience offers special access to areas not usually open to the public, including torture chambers and the great romantic Casanova’s prison cell. Skip the long lines, get away from the crowds, follow the footsteps of Venice’s most colorful characters, and enjoy an insider’s look at the famed historic residence.

You’ll meet your tour guide near the Doge’s Palace and head straight inside through a secret door. As you step into the hidden world of political Venice, you’ll navigate the isolated prison cells, torture chambers, secret government archives, and top-echelon offices. Even back in its heyday, most Venetians didn’t know this space existed, so it’s hard to overstate just how privileged this secret passages tour is! With antique cabinets and creaky floors, these rooms will truly make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.

As you leave the secret passages behind, you’ll enter the general access areas of the palace and explore the waiting rooms, council halls, and ballrooms. This part of the palace contrasts with the dark and mysterious portions, revealing a haughty grandeur. Within these walls, you’ll view some of Venice’s finest works of art and discover the public face of the prestigious Republic of Venice. Stroll through lavish apartments and admire dramatic paintings by Veronese and Tintoretto.

This tour ends with a visit to Venice's other great site, St. Mark's Basilica. Once again, skip the long lines and enjoy a complete look inside the Basilica. Admire various eastern and western architectural elements, stunning gold mosaics, and the famous altarpiece, the Pala D'oro. No other landmark pays homage to the city's past as much as St. Mark's Basilica does, a structure that benefited greatly from the pillaging of Venetians abroad.

Day 3: Bike Tour on Lido Island, Visit Murano & Burano

Busy day on the canals

Enjoy a guided bike tour of Lido Island, exploring its beautiful beaches and 1920s hotels highlighting Venetian glamour. This easy, family-friendly excursion takes you along the Venetian Lagoon, passing by a quiet garden once Venice's main Jewish cemetery from 1386 until the 18th century. You’ll also visit San Nicolò Church, where the traditional thanksgiving mass of the Sposalizio del Mare (Marriage of the Sea) occurs. This ceremony symbolizes the maritime dominion of Venice for over 1,000 years.

Continue along the Adriatic Sea through the San Nicolò Natural Reserve, a protected zone with scenic open spaces. Pedal along the old pier between the sea and the harbor until you reach the lighthouse. Here is the perfect spot to enjoy views of the Lido coastline and some distinctive architecture, such as Grand Hotel des Bains and Hotel Excelsior. 

Next, bike along the canals in the colorful fishing village of Malamocco, similar to a scaled-down version of Venice. With your guide leading the way, continue cycling through the nature reserve, passing the beautiful dunes where Byron loved to ride horses at sunrise. Take a break and relax as the locals do by heading to the quiet Alberoni Beach for a drink or a swim.

You’ll return along the Lagoon, enjoying views of the Poveglia, Lazzaretto Vecchio, and San Lazzaro degli Armeni islands. End your adventure at the Lido Market for a well-deserved spritz, the most popular aperitivo drink in Venice.

When in Venice, a visit to its lagoon and neighboring islands is a must! These picturesque villages offer a getaway from the city of Venice and a unique look into local life and culture. Take the day to visit the islands of Murano, Torcello, and Burano on your own. Closest to Venice, Murano is known for hand-blown glass. Go to the Glass Museum to learn and see for yourself the colorful and delicate craft in its many forms. Traditionally a quiet fishermen's village, Burano is known for its exquisite lacemaking and the colorful houses that adorn its canals. You'll be sure to leave with a camera roll full of photos, as this uniquely colorful village is incredibly postcard-worthy.

Day 4: Venice to Lake Garda via Verona, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour

Center of Verona
Aerial view of Verona

Leave Lake Garda and head to Verona, where you can stroll around the charming historic center and marvel at the city’s beautiful architecture, magnificent piazzas, ancient Roman arena, and ornate tombs. The city is very accessible on foot, so we recommend taking half a day to explore at your own leisure. See the famous Juliet's Balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet tragedy. Discover the side streets of Verona in between colorful buildings, and head on to the Adige River for glorious views. Armed with personalized tips, you'll be able to fully experience the well-preserved treasures of this beautiful and romantic northern Italian city, and understand why it earned its UNESCO World Heritage status.

Afterward, transfer to Lake Garda, roughly a two-hour drive away. Once you arrive at Lake Garda, you'll embark on a three-hour boat tour of the western lake and Sirmione, with stops for Salò, Garda Island, Gardone, and some swimming from the boat.

 After admiring the Sirmione peninsula and its many spots of interest, you will head towards the impressive outcropping of Rocca di Manerba. Pass the island of San Biagio and the enchanting Isola del Garda, the private residence of the counts of Borghese-Cavazza, and head to the magnificent Costa Romantica.

The Costa Romantica is the lakeshore between Toscolano Maderno and the Gulf of Salò, where lush nature sits alongside the elegant architecture of villas and hotels. This area still bears traces of the Republic of Salò, declared during the Fascist period, and the architecture is a perfect reflection of its style, with the occasional Liberty touch to enhance its vintage charm. After the tour, you will return to Sirmione and pass under the two bridges of the Scaligero Castle.

Day 5: Explore Lake Garda

Small town on Lake Garda
Small town on Lake Garda
Spend a day exploring Lake Garda on your own schedule. Garda is known as the most family-friendly Italian lake, with plenty of activities both in nature and at the many water and theme parks. Hike easy, fun paths, visit different villages, or learn about science and local crafts in the museums. Theme parks like Gardaland and outdoor activities such as the Monte Baldo cable car await.

Day 6: Bike & Picnic in Sigurta Park

Spring tulips in the park [Photo by Nicola Pavan on Unsplash]
Bike through the wonderful land of Valle del Mincio, coasting amid glacier-formed hills, up to the Sigurtà Garden Park. In the park, you'll picnic amid English-inspired fields and rose gardens.
Stop in Borghetto on your return, a medieval village famous for its watermills and scenic glimpses between colored houses and stretches of water.

Day 7: Lake Garda to Siena via Florence

Dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Travel from Lake Garda to Florence today via high-speed train, which will take roughly four hours. Once you arrive, you have free time to spend in Florence if you so choose.

You’ll find some of the world’s most recognizable art and architecture in Florence, from Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to the 1,000-year-old Ponte Vecchio medieval bridge. But the charms of Florence aren’t just found in its museums. The city center itself is a sight not to be missed, and as the capital of Tuscany, it sits as the center of what many think of as the sleepy, sun-drenched countryside lifestyle. Check out the many parks and gardens, including the Iris Garden that holds 250 endangered species, rambling markets, and celebrate the city’s status as the capital of gelato with as many scoops as you can handle.

If you're looking for something more hands-on, visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, which is as interactive as the man himself would want, or consider the celestial spheres at the Museo Galileo, where you can peer through ancient telescopes.

After you're finished with Florence, you'll be transferred to Siena via private driver.

Day 8: Ballooning Over Chianti With Wagon Ride & Picnic

Floating over the countryside

Enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience as you fly over the scenic Chianti countryside, taking in the magical colors of Tuscany at dawn. Early in the morning, a private driver will collect you and take you to the launch field just outside of Siena. Watch the exciting process of inflating the balloon as you receive a safety briefing. Your hot air balloon flight takes approximately one hour, depending on wind and weather conditions, and may vary at the pilot’s discretion. Because the pilot can’t steer the balloon, it drifts leisurely with the winds. Part of the fun is never knowing what you’ll see or where you’ll land!

Enjoy a gentle descent and landing before sitting down for a picnic breakfast onsite or at a nearby farm. You’ll sip prosecco and nibble local Tuscan produce.

After breakfast, keep exploring the Tuscan scenery at a peaceful, relaxed pace as your private guide leads you through the picturesque and aromatic Chianti region on a wagon. Two powerful horses lead you, crossing panoramic routes and historic castles. Your guide will entertain you with stories, interesting facts, and local myths. 

Take a break at a shaded spot amongst Tuscany’s vineyards and enjoy a fresh picnic lunch of local products and wine. Take in the panoramic views of this iconic landscape before heading back through more scenic Tuscan countryside.

Day 9: Tuscan Drive & Hiking the Siena Pilgrim Path

Landscape in Chianti region, near Siena
Landscape in Chianti region, near Siena
Tuscany is vastly known for its vineyards, but it has so much more to offer. If you aren't into wine (or for those family members not yet of age), there are plenty of castles, small towns, and villages amidst the beautiful countryside. See why it's been the setting for so many films as you explore family-friendly spots in the Chianti Valley, Val D’Elsa around San Gimignano, and the Val D’Orcia around Pienza and Montepulciano. 

Then stretch your legs with a hike along the scenic and famous Via Francigena pilgrim trail from Siena to Monteriggioni. With a private guide leading the way, you’ll enjoy an easy trek along ancient paths used by pilgrims since the year 800 CE. People from across Europe followed the trail on their way to or from Rome when going on a pilgrimage was the goal of a lifetime. Walk on the same paths today, but with more comfortable shoes.

Along the way, you’ll visit one of the oldest churches in the province of Siena, the Romanesque abbey of San Salvatore and Cirino. This church still displays an intricate 15th-century painting on its main altar. Continue to the little hamlet of Monteriggioni, mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. Dante compares the giants at the entrance of the Ninth Circle to Monteriggioni’s famous towers. He writes:

Because as on its circular parapets
Monteriggioni crowns itself with towers
E'en thus the margin which surrounds the well
With one-half of their bodies turreted 
The horrible giants.

Day 10: Siena to Florence & Depart

Florence from above

You'll be transferred back to Florence to catch your flight home or on to your next adventure.

Map

Map of Veneto and Tuscany for Active Families: Venice, Lake Garda & Siena - 10 Days
Map of Veneto and Tuscany for Active Families: Venice, Lake Garda & Siena - 10 Days