Anna Wughanga shares her no-holds barred account of travelling to Venice, Italy, three months postpartum, with a baby in tow
Despite our love for travel, a high-risk pregnancy resulted in my partner Alex and I staying home for most of the pregnancy, with the exception of a weekend trip to Salzburg for a friend’s wedding. Following the birth and trying initial postpartum period, we needed a break. My birthday, coming up in a few months, was the perfect excuse for a short trip. Alex began planning a surprise.
You Don’t Know Baggage Until You Have A Baby!
When packing, I use the ‘rollem-up’ method where you simply roll up your clothes in your bags as opposed to folding them. This helps maximise on space and has served me wonderfully in the past. I was however simply not prepared for the amount of equipment that comes with babies. Prior to birth, I had made the decision to avoid any unnecessary baby-related purchases, but still, the bottles, diapers, wipes, breastfeeding and changing equipment as well as baby clothes were overwhelming.
As I was exclusively breastfeeding at the time, I opted to leave all bottles behind and feed my son on the go. This saved a lot of space.
Additionally, I carried a few diapers/wipes and bought more in Venice. While I was unaware of the final destination, I asked Alex about the accessibility there. Following his response, I decided against taking baby chairs. Instead, we packed two baby carriers, one for each of us, and wore our son for the duration of the trip.
After baby-related luggage concerns, packing was a breeze. Per our minimalist lifestyle, we packed a few neutral bottoms and a change of tops and accessories to introduce variety. With limited time, sleep and both mental and luggage space, minimalism is a top tip for new parents.
We could either take a twohour flight or a seven-hour train ride to get to Venice. Both options cost a similar amount. It may seem like a no-brainer to choose the flight, but oh baby!
Our son was barely three months old at the time, which meant incessant crying. The prospect of being stuck in the air with a wailing baby and judgemental passengers was highly unappealing. Moreover, pressure changes in the cabin can be very distressing, even painful, for babies. We therefore decided on the OBB train. We booked two first-class return tickets (babies travel for free). At each border, passport control will look at your documents. As a non-EU individual (I am Kenyan), be prepared for closer scrutiny when traveling in Europe given the migrant crisis and right-wing populist wave sweeping the continent. You either need a Schengen Visa, depending on your travel plans, or a residency card to move freely within the continent.
We arrived at the Venice Santa Lucia railway station, the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia. We avoided the additional commute from the airport to the island city, emerging right into the heart of Venice, with beautiful views of the Grand Canal as our welcome!
We stayed at the Hotel Carlton Capri Venice. It is a small boutique sister hotel to the Grand Carlton. We decided on it because it is cheaper than the Grand Carlton with access to the same amenities. Additionally, we find that smaller hotels are more willing to accommodate any special requests or considerations you may have when traveling with a baby.
Lastly, the hotels’ location, next to the Grand Canal but dwarfed by the larger Grand Carlton, meant it was pretty quiet. Since Venice can get pretty loud, this was a priority. The room was relatively small but this is in line with Venezian standards. It cost $500 for a two-night stay in the superior rooms, breakfast included.
Romantic, otherworldly and unique are just a few words you can use to describe the sinking city on the coast of Italy. Our first stop was the Rialto bridge. Tourists and locals alike fill the streets, taking in the stunning architecture while snacking on the decadent gelato that Venice is famous for.
Afterwards we walked to Piazza San Marco, which is the principal public space on the island. Here, we took in the winged lions atop the Basilica San Marco, transfixed by the intricate architecture of the Torre dell’ Orologio (clock tower), the Campanile and Doge’s Palace. As with all things Venice, human traffic is immense so be prepared for crowds.
Walking to Rialto Bridge and St Marks Square was exhausting. We had pizza for dinner then got lost as we tried to find our way back. Venice is a labyrinth with small alleys, waterways and numerous campi. To a couple of sleep-deprived parents with a screaming baby, the streets might as well have been interchangeable. The language barrier meant asking for directions was pretty much pointless and when we desperately needed it, we had no internet connection! We bought a physical map and after enough bickering, nervous breakdowns and seriously sore feet, we were finally in our room.
The next day we went to see the historic Jewish Ghetto which is filled with intriguing culture. We had lunch at the boutique Hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente which lies along a small canal. Here, we had the quintessential Venezian meal right next to the water; creamy pasta, freshly baked bread, exquisite cheese, crisp wine complete with fruits and vegetables, under the Italian sun. Prices were relatively steep but the meal was worth it.
Thereafter we walked to the end of the Island where we could clearly see that it is in fact sinking. We walked into the direction of the main square, towards the famed Rialto Fish Market which was on my must see-list. Taking in the sights and sounds of the historic city, we mentally prepared for our departure the next morning.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Where possible, breastfeed your child on the go. I was baby wearing, and with the help of a breastfeeding cover, I nursed as we walked.
- Wear your baby.
- If you are considering traveling to Venice with a toddler, be aware that there is open water virtually everywhere.
- Buy a physical map