The Venice Free Walking Tour is a must for anyone travelling to Venice. Our guide, Marialaura, showed us many parts of Venice you’re not likely to see in a guidebook, as well as explanations on certain “Venice only” things. For example, did you know the only Piazza in Venice is Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), and that all the other square’s are ‘Campo’. This is because Campo means field, and all of the squares in Venice used to be fields. In Rome, Campo De Fiori is one of the only Campo’s outside of Venice, and literally translates to ‘Field of Flowers’.
There are a number of tours every day, and advance bookings are a must. I was glad we pre-booked from Rome a few days prior, as the tour ‘sold out’ not long after. Many people turned up on the day only to be turned away.
We took the 9am tour, which started at Campo Apostoli and concluded 3 hours later near Ponte delle Tette.
Although comprehensive, the tour certainly does not cover all of Venice, as that would take days. Geographically, we probably only walked about 5km, but saw a lot in that space.
The history and significance of Marco Polo and the spice trade was covered, as well as a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism. We went through the local markets and were shown how the old wells work that are in every Campo.
What is sustainable tourism?
In short, sustainable tourism is acting like a local when you’re visiting somewhere. As Marialaura explained, this means eating in the restaurants where the waiters probably don’t speak English. Avoid the pizza bars and pubs, and be mindful with where and how you dispose of your rubbish.
At the end of the tour you’re given a map that list many restaurants and shops to get your authentic Venetian experience, and to support local traders.
The Venice Free Walking Tour isn’t actually free
Although you could leave at the end without paying, you shouldn’t. The tour is fantastic, although some could argue that there’s some false advertising going on. As a Tripadvisor reviewer noted- they thought it was a government subsidised tour and felt a little ripped off when expected to hand over money at the end.
Marialaura was quite clear at the beginning of the tour that the way they make money is through donations, so that customer certainly had the right to leave right there and then.
Venice Free Walking Tour with kids
This will really depend on the age of your children. On our tour, our 14 month old was the only ‘kid’. He spent the entire time in a carrier strapped to either one of us. We did have to dip in and out of the tour a couple of times when he was getting restless and needed some quiet space to get to sleep. Once he nodded off through, we could continue with the group.
As with almost anything in Venice, prams and strollers are not advised and will cause you grief and regret.