Pigeon Parades in Venice, Italy
Simon celebrated his fourth birthday in Venice, Italy. He picked the itinerary on birthday day, which meant we spent most of the day in St. Mark’s Square, feeding popcorn to the pigeons and feeding ice cream to Simon. Our secret to successful travel with a preschooler was bribery of gelato ice cream at the end of each hike or museum. Simon learned the Italian words for numbers and flavours. By the end of the trip we could all speak gelato!
To prepare Simon before the trip, we read him picture books. In Angelo by David Macaulay, an Italian stonemason restoring the façade of a church befriends an injured pigeon. However, the one we were asked to read over and over was Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley. A tomcat living in Venice adopts two homeless kittens. We acted out the scene in which the cats fall in the canal by falling off the bed onto the blue carpet.
Since our trip, two new picture books with Venetian settings have been published. I took home The Famous Nini : a Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star by Mary Nethery, and Simon declared it “good for young kids”.Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer has the famous cartoon pig superimposed on Venetian photos. My favourite line was, “As they went through the airport, Olivia was searched for weapons. She was very pleased.” That certainly reflected Simon’s attitude to removing his shoes at security. We worried he would be worried, but Simon was too busy trying to get a look at the x-ray luggage screen to think about it.
At age four, Simon was too young for one of Mom’s favourite books, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. This would be enjoyed by kids 9 to 13. It’s about two orphans trying to survive on the streets in Venice. They are given sanctuary in an abandoned movie theatre by the Thief Lord, a mysterious teenager. Simon has since enjoyed the movie version from the library.
Adults might enjoy The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt, the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s a true story filled with some unique characters who call Venice home.
Simon’s favourite Venetian activities:
· Looking at the fish in the outdoor market. He helped a little snail in its escape from the sale table into the canal
· Riding boats up and down the canal- vaporetto and traghetti are cheaper than gondolas
· Being four, Simon spent a lot of time looking at cars and trucks in Calgary. In Venice, he watched for the Italian counterparts: the garbage boat, the delivery boats, fireboats, and the Police boat. We watched a high speed police boat chase when we visited the island of Murano
· Running up and over the endless bridges with Grandma in hot pursuit