Families with teens who want to get out and explore (and find the perfect backdrop for their photos) should give this two-week itinerary through the Veneto and Tuscany a try. You'll start in Venice, where you can explore secret passages, craft your own masks, and paddle a gondola. Then head to Verona and Lake Garda, biking through both urban and natural attractions. Wrap up in the Tuscan cities of Siena and Florence with a hot air balloon ride, gelato-making, and more.

Highlights

  • Paddle your own gondola through the canals of Venice
  • Cruise around the park-filled shores of Lake Garda
  • Soar over the Chianti Valley in a hot air balloon
  • Craft your own gelato flavor in a Florence workshop

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling for Families Venice
Day 2 Venetian Mask Painting, Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica Secret Passages Tour Venice
Day 3 Bike Tour on Lido Island & Visit to Murano & Burano Islands Venice
Day 4 Venice to Verona & Verona Guided Bike Tour Verona
Day 5 Dolomites Day Trip Verona
Day 6 Verona to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour Lake Garda
Day 7 Free Day on Lake Garda Lake Garda
Day 8 Sigurtà Park Bike Ride & Picnic Lake Garda
Day 9 Lake Garda to Siena Siena
Day 10 Ballooning Over Chianti Siena
Day 11 Drive Through Tuscany Siena
Day 12 Siena to Florence Florence
Day 13 Parks of Florence & Gelato-Making Class Florence
Day 14 Depart Florence  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling for Families

Gondola Ride in Venice
Gondola ride in Venice
Welcome to Italy! Your trip starts in Venice, where you'll be brought to your hotel via private water taxi.
Once you've settled in, enjoy an exciting family-friendly gondola ride through Venice’s picturesque canals, one of the most relaxing ways to experience the city’s essence. 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.

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 cicchetti (tapas) and a glass of wine or non-alcoholic drink. 

The perspective you get of Venice changes when on the water, which helps you go beyond the typical tourist activities. Gondoliers are patient and encouraging—nobody has fallen in yet! 

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. During your walk through the city, there are many points of interest that are worth a stop, one of the main highlights being the Rialto Bridge.
It can be very busy in the evening as people pause to watch the gondolas on the Grand Canal around sunset. 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 Painting, Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica Secret Passages Tour

Paint your own Venetian mask
Carnival masks are truly a symbol of Venice, linked to the origins of Carnival celebrations. Create your own in a workshop in the very heart of the city. Enter the costumes and masks atelier, only a few minutes away from St. Mark's Square and Rialto Bridge, and learn how to make a mask starting from scratch. Venetian artisans will teach you the secrets of their art and you will discover a millennia-long story. You can either create a mask from scratch by learning to use papier-mâché and different decorative materials, or you can skip the creation part and focus on a decoration-only workshop by choosing a premade artisanal mask to work on.
Once you've created your mask, delve into some more secret Venetian history with a tour of the secret passages within the Doge's Palace

You’ll meet your tour guide near the Doge’s Palace, skip the lines, 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 to Murano & Burano Islands

Visit the Islands around Venice
Visit the islands around Venice
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.
Next, head to the neighboring 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 Verona & Verona Guided Bike Tour

Explore Verona and its Roman Arena
Explore Verona and its Roman Arena
Head to Verona today, roughly a 1.5-hour train ride away.
Once you arrive, set out to explore the city on a set of wheels via guided bike tour with a local expert. On this easy ride, you’ll pedal around main squares and ancient monuments, absorbing an excellent overview of the city. As you slowly cycle through the city center, listen to passionate stories and interesting historical facts. 

Along the way, you’ll discover the old town and its most remarkable landmarks, passing through cobbled lanes and by the majestic city walls. Visit sites including Roman ruins, the famous Arena amphitheater, Castel San Pietro, the Capulet house, and the famous balcony where Romeo and Juliet's love story took place.

Day 5: Dolomites Day Trip

Dolomites in Northern Italy
The Dolomites in Northern Italy
Discover the world-famous Dolomites, a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site tucked away in the Italian Alps. Starting from Verona, you’ll enjoy a comfortable transfer through hilly scenery to the beloved Val di Fassa, a wide-open valley surrounded by mountain walls. Here is where you’ll find those iconic scenes of alpine villages and church steeples set against a craggy backdrop. 

Next, continue to Pordoi Pass, which sits above 7,000 feet (2,239 m) between the Sella and Marmolada peaks. To reach high into the mountains, you’ll take a panoramic funicular ride up to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Enjoy the incredible views over the Dolomites as you inch up into the alpine landscape. You’ll have some free time to walk around and admire the unique scenery before savoring lunch at a typical mountain refuge and returning to Verona. 

Day 6: Verona to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour

Castle in Sirmione
Castle in Sirmione
Make your way via private transfer to Lake Garda, roughly a 30-minute drive away.
Once you arrive, immerse yourself in the history and nature of Lake Garda with a relaxing private boat cruise. As you glide through the calm waters surrounded by beautiful scenery, you’ll view Salò, Garda Island, and Gardone, plus enjoy swimming from the boat.

Departing from the Sirmione Peninsula, you’ll head toward the impressive outcrop of Rocca di Manerba and pass the island of San Biagio. Next, cruise near the enchanting Isola del Garda, the private residence of the counts of Borghese-Cavazza. Lastly, make your way to the magnificent Costa Romantica.

The Costa Romantica is the lakeshore between Toscolano Maderno and the Gulf of Salò, on which dense nature surrounds the elegant architecture of villas and hotels. This area still bears traces of the Republic of Salò, declared during the Fascist period. The architecture is a perfect reflection of this style, with the occasional Liberty (Italian variant of Art Nouveau) touch to enhance its vintage charm. 

As you make your way back to Sirmione, you’ll pass under the two bridges of the Scaligero Castle.

Day 7: Free Day on Lake Garda

Watch the sun set over 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 8: Sigurtà Park Bike Ride & Picnic

Sigurtà Park
Discover the picturesque landscapes of Valle del Mincio, cycling through the countryside and visiting one of the most beautiful parks in Europe, where you’ll relax with a glass of wine and a gourmet picnic while admiring the scenery.

After sorting your equipment and getting acquainted with your bike, take your map and picnic and cycle through the beautiful Parco del Mincio. Starting from Peschiera del Garda, you’ll pass through the Morainic hills and arrive at a special spot for an unforgettable experience, the wonderful Sigurtà Garden Park. Enjoy your gourmet picnic while surrounded by an English field filled with rose-lined paths.

Before returning, visit Borghetto, a medieval village famous for its watermills and views. Enjoy glimpses between colorful houses and stretches of water.

Day 9: Lake Garda to Siena

Torre del Magnia in Piazza Campo
Torre del Magnia in Piazza Campo
Hop on the high-speed train to Florence, where you'll meet your private transfer to Siena.
Siena is known as Italy’s “open-air museum,” rich in medieval monuments, museums, palaces, and churches. Cars aren't allowed in the city center, enhancing its historic feel. Siena is set on a steep hill, so be prepared to walk a lot as you visit spots like the Natural History Museum, open plazas, and relaxing parks.

Day 10: Ballooning Over Chianti

Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Chianti
Enjoy a hot air balloon ride over Chianti
Enjoy the incredible scenery of the Tuscan countryside from a unique vantage point with a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. Starting at dawn, your driver will take you to the launch field, where the pilot and crew inflate the balloon, a process that takes about 30 minutes. As you ascend into the air, enjoy the colorful views of the Chianti region as the first rays of sunlight crest over the horizon. 

Your journey above the rolling hills, estates, and vineyards of Tuscany will last approximately one hour. The pilot will create a scenic pathway depending on the weather and wind condition. Because a hot-air balloon drifts with the winds, part of the magic is never knowing exactly what you’ll see and where you may land!

Once back on the ground, you’ll enjoy a delicious breakfast featuring champagne, prosecco, and local Tuscan produce. Relax in solitude with a picnic at either the landing site or a nearby farm. Savor the fresh morning air as you nosh on local treats and watch the sky transition from pink to blue.

Although hot-air balloons fly all year round, the official "ballooning season" runs approximately from April to November with annual variations. Weather in Chianti can be tricky and unpredictable, especially in early spring; however, the summer months are typically ideal for ballooning. If you visit in the winter, flights can be truly stunning, with crisp air, crystal-clear views, and steady North Easterly winds.

Day 11: Drive Through Tuscany

Montepulciano and Views of the Valley
Montepulciano and views of the valley
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

The route is a combination of main roads and winding hilltop lanes and can take between a half and a full day to complete depending on how many stops you make.

Day 12: Siena to Florence

Pose in front of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence
Travel to Florence via private transfer, home of sites like the Duomo, Uffizi, and Galleria dell'Accademia.
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.

Day 13: Parks of Florence & Gelato-Making Class

Gelato is Everywhere in Italy
Gelato is everywhere in Italy
Enjoy your free morning at the beautiful parks in Florence surrounded by the Tuscan countryside. Take your time to buy some delicious local snacks from one of the markets in the center and then head for a leisurely walk through open parks and gardens. Most of the larger gardens are on the south side of the Arno River including the Boboli Gardens and the Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden), known as a beautiful sunset spot.

Find the nature and art inside this historic city and enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets. The parks are places to find tranquility and spend quality time admiring the architecture and landscape designs inspired by Renaissance Florence.

In the afternoon, experience the delicious craft of gelato-making with a workshop in the heart of historic Florence. In the ambiance of an authentic family-run gelateria and gelato-making school known for its exceptional flavors, you’ll learn the ins and outs of producing that perfect scoop of creamy goodness with the help of a true professional.
Historians can trace the concept of gelato back thousands of years, but it evolved into the creamy goodness we all know and love over time. The key to a great Italian gelato is respecting tradition while still understanding how to be innovative. Identify the differences between gelato and ice cream, learn about the ingredients used, and practice the special process that makes gelato so creamy and delicious. End the class by making your very own flavor from scratch and tasting your creation.

Day 14: Depart Florence

Views over Florence

Wave goodbye to Florence as you head to the airport for your flight home or onto your next adventure.

Map

Map of Veneto and Tuscany for Active Families: Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, Siena  & Florence - 14 Days
Map of Veneto and Tuscany for Active Families: Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, Siena & Florence - 14 Days