Perhaps because she loves opera and museums too, Mozart could relate to the protagonist in a lovely picture book called “Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook-An Adventure in Venice”. For what ever reason, she has always really liked this book and it was a great way to introduce her to Venice before we came. It also really lends itself to being a fantastic book to follow and make a fun kid’s itinerary.
She loves helping me do research on our trip and we have named her our official research assistant. She really does come up with good information and ideas, all on her own through her books. We also do some research on the internet, although that is harder on the road. It is fun to share this passion with her and it surprised me that she initiated this. I like it that she associates travel with books as I do since I think they go together like bees and honey. She thinks it is all her idea, which is great, but of course I hunt down the books that make it most fun.
We found two kids books on Venice particularly great in preparation for our stay, to review later to savor the memories and take with us while there. In addition to the more recently written Zoe Sophia book that was her favorite (written by two Vassar College friends Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley who have kids and love travel ), we also loved the classic “This is Venice” by M. Sasek. This is one of his many award winning travel guide classics for kids with wonderful whimsical illustrations, amusing verse along with lots of facts that are interesting to kids and adults alike.
As I have mentioned before, we love the idea of making up children’s itineraries from good children’s books as shown in one of our favorite books, “Storybook Travels”. When they don’t have any books for an area like Venice, we find some and make up our own itineraries.
I think it helps ground the experience in a deeper way when you use books with kids or adults. Mozart had never heard of a vaporetto before reading the books, but when we arrived she was excited to “feel like a pirate princess sailing the windy seas” just like Zoe Sophia. She got to learn a few Italian words right along with Zoe Sophia like “la prima collazione” (the first meal/breakfast), “spremuta “(juice), “Grazie mille” (thanks a million) etc that she later used and heard.
We went to the “Laboratorio Artigiano Maschere”(mask shop) just like Zoe Sophia and her aunt and tried on lots of beautiful masks. We found out that they have a big “Carnavale” in Venice in February just like they do in Spain and everyone dresses up in these masks and capes and ride around in gondolas. It lasts ten days now, but in the eighteenth century it lasted six months. Some of the masks are works of art and we enjoyed them as much as she did. Picking just one that would fit in our limited space was hard!
We went to Piazza San Marco and fed the pigeons, saw the Ca’d’Oro (house of gold) and went to the the famous Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal just like Zoe Sophia. Both books gave us details like the fact the bridge was built in 1590 “in the days of Italian princesses” and the campanile is 323 feet high and it collapsed in 1902, so they rebuilt it. We got our first look at the Italian flag and learned about the famous opera house, La Fenice on the Grand Canal and the names of many of the beautiful Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance marble palaces. Both books give a nice look at real people and how they live in Venice and how the water affects everything in their lives.
We took the boat ride to the island of Murano to see the world-famous glass blowing just like Zoe Sophia too. We even looked for the one she describes in the book and asked, but did not find it, although we enjoyed the hunt. We did learn about the “millefiori” technique first from this book (where each bead has a colored flower in it and no two are alike). Perhaps the demonstration that we did see meant more because we read about it first.
When we were on our gondola ride, Mozart insisted on getting out her book about Zoe Sophia and reading it as we made our way thru the winding canals. She reads when we are in traffic jams on busses or in the RV, so I guess it seemed a quite natural thing to do in a mini traffic jam on the canal as we waited for some things to be delivered by a bigger boat. She giggled as she showed us a picture of Zoe Sophia in a gondola which she looked at while in a gondola, so of course we had to take a picture of her showing us that picture.
She also wanted to see if we could find the exact place where Zoe Sophia had a wonderful cup of hot chocolate. One of her favorite Paris adventures was finding Angelina’s where Linnea had special hot chocolate, so we hoped for another exciting find.
Caffe Florian on the Piazza was found in a covered area near to where we had our first drinks near the Basilica, but hidden behind the orchestra in a little different area. According to the book, “Venetians have come to Florian’s since 1720” and there certainly was magic there the day we came.
As you can see in the picture we found the exact same spot where Zoe Sophia and her aunt D.P. had their very special hot chocolate and we did it too! Like Angelina’s, it is a pricey place to have hot chocolate, but a splurge well worth it as every time she looks at the book, she remembers her shared experience. We plan on writing to the author and telling her that we did it too and are so grateful that she wrote about it in such exciting detail.
Hunting this famous location down and enjoying this enchanting experience was a treat for all of us as the small orchestra played on this beautiful day in Piazza San Marco. Another fun coincidence for us was that both the violin and piano players were woman. Mozart really related to the beautiful blond violinist and she went over to talk to her with her own violin in hand. It was a very shady spot, so a nice place to relax and enjoy the music while people watching. We would have missed this idyllic spot entirely had we not read the book.
Indeed, the rooms are tiny just like the book says and “It’s like we’re sitting inside our own private jewel box lined with mirrors and paintings”. They were there in winter and we in summer, so we mostly sat outside of the room where it was cooler, but Mozart did drink some hot chocolate there and did lots of dancing to the music as she had the room to herself. The hot chocolate was delicious and thick and Mozart kept asking the fancy white clad waiter for more sugar which he gladly brought and she kept a few for her scrapbook.
It is exciting for a child to read about vaporettos, gondolas, feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco and glass blowing in Murano, etc. and then having the same experience. Books have been such a joy on this trip and really enrich the experience. Even the fiction plays a part sometimes, like one that she is reading now about kids running away to a museum (“From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E.Frankenweiler”) which interested her because of all the museums that she has been visiting.