Written by Paola Zoffoli & illustrated by Paola Scibilia, VivaVenice is an amazing kids’ travel guide, the best I’ve ever seen. Published by Elzeviro under the series label Curiosamente, it’s chock-full of puzzles, tangents, and trivia, matched with fantastic illustrations:
The book is 167 pages, and unlike adult travel guides, does not spend much space on practical information (restaurant/hotel reviews, itinerary plans), assuming, I guess, that parents will be making most of those decisions. That leaves almost the entire book for glorious cultural tangents, like this intro to the Commedia dell’Arte…
..or this mini-architectural guide (in a children’s book! I love it). I also love that the writing is accessible but not dumb (e.g., “Gothic style windows are often decorated with floral motifs and have the traditional acute arch shape, pointed at the top”).
Here’s a gorgeous rendering of the city, pointing out the three bridges over the Grand Canal (also, the text notes that Venice itself is shaped like a fish).
Each chapter has a section called “Oddities,” featuring trivia like “Why is there a bridge called Ponte delle tette (Bridge of Breasts)?” & “What are the Bauta, Tricorno and Tabarro?” (Answers: The bridge is near an area once reserved for courtesans, who lured clients with their assets; the bauta, etc. were parts of a disguise worn by noblemen when in public).
Here’s a guide to common seafood found at the Rialto market & at many restaurants. The fisherman at the bottom right is one of numerous puzzles hidden throughout the book.
An obligatory intro to gondolas (complete with steering guide) is followed by a thorough overview of the many different Venetian boats.
As a final example, here’s a guide to popular Venetian pastries. There’s a recipe for zaleti on the following page.
The above spreads weren’t cherry-picked, either. Every page resembles the above, packed with cute drawings & fun info. Simply put, the book is a gem.
Buying info: VivaVenice is not available from Amazon (not even from Amazon’s Italian site), which makes me think it is out-of-print. Only one site, Kids Europe, has it new for $38; I can’t say anything for or against them as sellers. My copy’s cover price is 17,56€; even factoring in the exchange rate, $38 is pricey. But since the current Amazon Marketplace price is $200+, it’s probably your best bet.