From the outside it may feel like it never rains in Italy, but it is a shame to arrive here expecting the holiday of your lifetime only to get stuck in the hotel due to a ferocious downpour.
Or a heavy snowfall for that matter.
‘Oh, no!’, you may despair. ‘No more beach, no more nice walks down curvy cobbled streets, no more having gelato alfresco at historical squares…’
In fact, it’s not that bad. Italy offers a great deal of things to do and enjoy no matter what’s the weather. So to help you still have a whale of a time, come rain or snow or thunder, here are my personally tried and tested suggestions for
15 Things To Do on a Rainy Day in the Veneto, Northern Italy
(With or Without Kids)
Just a word before we start in earnest. My list centres on the Veneto – a region in the Northern part of Italy where I currently live. You can easily adapt my suggestions to any Italian city and/or region as most of these activities are typical for the whole country. So, read on, make good use of them and share with people in need, i.e. anyone who has been caught by the weather in the beautiful Italy.
1. Relax at a Spa or Thermal Baths
Famous for its spa culture since Roman times, Italy has a great deal of mineral water springs feeding excellent spas and thermal baths which don’t cost the earth to access. You can easily get a three-hour or a daily pass for the spa of a luxury hotel for anything from 18-20 euros upwards. It could be even cheaper on work days, too. You will get access to all sorts of facilities like sauna, Turkish bath, heated benches, emotional showers and a Kneipp trail. Last summer I had the pleasure to spend the day reviewing the spa at Hotel Viest just outside of Vicenza (read my thoughts on its facilities here). Thermal baths (called terme in Italian) are a big thing in Italy and usually they combine spa experiences with mineral water swimming pools and all sorts of water-based treatments and activities (both covered and open-air). For example, check out Aquagardens – the largest Italian thermal park – which is next door to Verona.
With Kids: Please, bear in mind that some spas may have age restrictions in place and children only over a certain age may be allowed in. Make sure to check if the spa you have chosen is kid-friendly or not, before getting there. Thermal baths on the other hand are usually a great place for children to swim and have fun with their parents.
2. Marvel at a Quirky Museum or Two
Now, Italy is the place to go to in terms of amazing museums stuffed to the brim with wonderful art and priceless antiques. I am sure that ticking off certain museums and art galleries, in fact, was high on your to-do list when you carefully planned your Italian trip. But, what if it manages to rain right after you have already paid them a visit? Or what happens if you actually live here in Italy and you have already done all of the usual suspects and you still need to find something to do on those bad weather weekends? Fear not, as leaving major museums aside, Italy is also the place where to find a myriad of one-of-a-kind, strange and quirky museums which will reveal a whole new world in front of your eyes. Museums dedicated to rivers, to village life, to ceramics, to the art of a particular century, to stone slabs, to shoes… Hey, in Marostica – a charming medieval walled town – there is even a Museum of the straw hats! The last time that it rained here – which was less than two weeks ago – we visited an amazing museum hidden in the gentle folds of the Berici Hills. Called Museo della Civilta Contadina Carlo Etenli (check its website here), it houses in a series of huge rooms an incredible collection illustrating village life during the last two centuries. While it was chucking it outside, we checked a still working steam engine, marveled at an early prototype of a baby walker and explored a basement full of old tractors. On a rainy day in Padua once, I spent a very interesting hour at the city’s Jewish Heritage Museum.
With Kids: There are some exciting museums for kids in the Veneto which are a great place to visit come rain or shine. Don’t miss Esapolis – the Living Museum of Insects, Silkworms and Bees. Click here to read more about it. In Venice, don’t miss the National History Museum for its crocodile mummies and compelling interactive itineraries. Click here to read more about it.
3. Follow the Sun to Where It Doesn’t Rain
D’oh! This one is so obvious and so crazy-sounding at the same time. But if you come to Italy from England where, when it rains, it feels like it is raining all over the world, you may not even think that there is a chance to escape the rain if only you travel a little bit away from where you are staying. The first thing I do on a rainy day in Vicenza – a gorgeous Palladian city where I have been living for three years now – is to check the weather forecast for Venice and Verona. Both are about three quarters of an hour and in opposite directions away from Vicenza. You wouldn’t believe it how often it may be raining in one, but not in the other. Hence, I head in the direction of the sun. If you are holidaying in Venice and want to escape a rainy day, check this huge list with ideas for easy and quick day trips from La Serenissima. If you find yourself in Verona and can’t face a day of rain, escape to one of these exciting 16 cities and towns nearby. They are all within a short distance and have so much to offer in terms of sightseeing, art, history and even excellent coffee. Just make sure that you check the weather forecast first.
With Kids: Well, you take them with you and make it a little adventure getting to know more of Italy than you may have originally planned.
4. Enjoy an Expo
Italians organise some of the best expos ever. They have these huge expo facilities built just outside every major city where they hold exciting exhibitions and events which will take you many hours to explore and have fun at. The best bit is that it is all held inside in a covered space, so you won’t get wet no matter what. Some of the best expos to put on your Italian calendar now are:
- Verona Motor Bike Expo;
- FieraCavalli – one of the world’s largest exhibitions dedicated to horses and riding – which is also held in Verona;
- Abilmente – a huge fair dedicated to all things hobby and craft which is held in Vicenza;
- CosmoFood Fair also in held Vicenza and so on.
In the last three years, I have been to such wacky and wonderful events like an exotic animals expo and even a cats fair. Not to mention the many travel fairs I have attended in Padua and Milan. Keep an eye on the websites of the places where these expos are held – Vicenza Fiera, Veronafiere, Padova Fiere – and you will know in advance when the events take place, so, if it rains, you will always have somewhere really fun to go.
With Kids: Don’t miss the most amazing expo for kids which is held every autumn in Vicenza. Called Children and Family Fair, it is a two-day extravaganza in Vicenza Fiera. It is like the best day out a child can have. In case you cannot make it, don’t worry, as there are other expos held in the Veneto which are suitable for kids, like the ones mentioned above. Also, Bassano Expo – just outside of Bassano del Grappa – organises a very nice expo for babies and children every year, too.
5. Visit an Aquarium
There are some very nice aquariums in the Veneto which are a great escape plan on a rainy day, for example the Sea Life Aquarium at Gardaland and the Sea Life Aquarium in Jesolo. There is something quite nice and comforting looking at water and being close to water without actually getting wet. Just a word of caution though. The Sea Life Aquarium at Gardaland is very popular when it rains and the queue to get in can stretch for an hour or more. So, make sure that you get there early. Also, buggies are not allowed inside. There is a buggy park though, where you can ‘park’ your buggy underneath a roof to keep it dry.
With Kids: Going to an aquarium is a rainy day activity which children will love.
6. Play at a Playcentre (or Let the Kids Do It)
Make it all about the children when it rains. After all, the rest of the time, most probably you dragged them to museums, palaces and other historic and art stuff. So, take a deep breath and relax, while they burn some energy and play alongside Italian kids. My three favourite playcentres in and around Vicenza are:
- Kids Village – a small and compact place in Vicenza with everything to keep children happy for a few hours;
- Magilandia – a very nice playcentre-cum-restaurant in Galliera Veneta (about 30 mins away from Vicenza) where you can spend the whole day watching your child having the time of their life. There is free Wi-Fi here, too.
- Piramiland – a small playcentre in the Piramidi Shopping Centre (which is 6 km away from Vicenza centre), where children can play for up to two hours while their parents shop.
There are many playcentres dotted around the Veneto, so make sure that you ask for recommendations at your hotel if you decide to spoil your child on a rainy day.
With Kids: Well, this option is all about the kids. So, remind them how nice of you it was to take them to a playcentre next time they complain of yet another museum visit you have in mind.
7. Shop Til You Drop
Yey! It’s Italy after all. So you will be spoiled for choice in terms of fashion stores, artisan boutiques and even food shops. Well, with its rich art and craft traditions and having birthed some of the best companies in the world, shopping in Italy is akin to a cultural experience. I am only saying this in case you need an excuse to spend, spend, spend. But it’s true, you know. Make a good use of a rainy day in Venice by visiting exquisite artisan shops where everything – from glass beads and jewellery to paper and lithographs – is handmade following centuries-old techniques. Escape the rain in one of Veneto’s huge shopping centres where you can find all the brands – from the cheap and cheerful to the high fashion ones. Italy has much to offer in terms of unique souvenirs and wonderful products, so take your time to explore. Before you know it, you may end up purchasing several litres of extra virgin olive oil from a small farm, handmade lemon-scented soaps from Lake Garda to last you a year at least and more Venetian beads than you can wear in your lifetime. The best bit is that many of the Italian craftsmen and artisan studios deliver abroad, so you won’t have to lug it all on the plane with you.
With Kids: Some shopping centres like Piramidi in point 6 above offer childcare services, i.e. a safe place with play equipment where you can drop your child off while you shop. Check in advance if this is the case for the shopping centre you plan to visit. Otherwise, turn a visit to an artisan’s studio in an educative experience for your child. Just explain in advance that touching is usually not permitted.
8. Attend a Cooking Class
Spending a few hours learning how to cook authentic Italian food is always time well invested. Especially, when it rains or snows outside. You cannot enjoy Italy without enjoying its food, so seek to improve your knowledge of it with the help of an experienced foodie local. There are many cooking classes you can join in the Veneto, so ask for recommendations at your hotel or the local tourist information office. If you are in Venice, check Cook in Venice – where they can get you to cook traditional Venetian meals in a 15th century Venetian palazzo among other things.
With Kids: Check out the cooking classes for kids held by Il Mondo di Bu in Vicenza.
9. Visit a Bookshop/Library
Italy has some splendid bookshops and historical libraries which would be a sin to miss even if you don’t speak a word of Italian. They often organise excellent concerts and interesting exhibitions. I still remember an exhibition set up by the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana in Vicenza of original letters and documents handwritten by some of the most well-known Italian and European authors, artists and politicians, like Michelangelo and Goethe. In Venice don’t miss the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. Its Monumental Rooms can be visited as part of your tourist sightseeing (every second Sunday of the month there are free guided tours, otherwise access is paid for). The Reading Rooms can be accessed too if you need to consult books or catalogs. In Verona don’t miss the oldest library in the world – the Biblioteca Capitolare is open for guided visits on weekends. In Bassano del Grappa pay a visit to the Libreria Palazzo Roberti which is considered to be ‘the most beautiful bookstore in Italy’.
With Kids: There are two bookshops in Venice geared specifically toward the kids. Ohana Venezia sells books and toys for children from 0 to 14 years of age, it has a rich programme of events all year round and it even organises snack times with book readings. The Marco Polo Kids is an independent bookstore which holds weekly book readings (some in English) and workshops. It also organises courses and events. In Verona, head straight for the Biblioteca Ragazzi where you will find reading spaces and events for children of different ages.
10. Hire a Guide for a Private Tour of all the Best Inside Places
The best way to utilise your time in the Veneto (especially when the weather is not at its usual Italian best) is to hire a private guide and ask them to show you all of the inside (figuratively and, well, literally speaking) places. These are people with an intimate knowledge of the local history, art and sights, who have spent years accumulating precious information. They have undergone stringent training and are officially registered tour guides. You can book them and tell them exactly what you want to see or what your limitations are (‘Not getting wet in the rain!’, sounds like a reasonable requirement). In Venice, I can wholeheartedly recommend the services of Luisella Romeo from See Venice and Erika Cornali from When in Venice. Alternatively, you can join a guided visit at one of the many museums, villas, palazzi and other places of interest spread round the Veneto. Check the website of the respective places for the tours’ starting hours.
With Kids: Tour guides can tailor your itinerary to suit kids of any age and interest. Just mention your specific requirements to them in advance. Many museums also organise workshops and happenings specifically for children. A very popular one is the Kids Day Event at the Guggenheim Museum in Venice which takes place every Sunday and it is aimed at kids from 4 to 10 years of age. Otherwise, check the websites and the Facebook pages of the different museums and places of interest for their most up to date schedules of events.
11. Walk Under the Porticoes
And see how far you can go before you have to step out in the rain. Italian cities have the fabulous advantage of porticoes, in other words – pavements with a ceiling – which allow you to hide from sudden downpours while you keep walking to your destination. Veneto’s Padua is one of the three cities in Italy and coincidentally the world (the other two being Bologna and Turin) with the longest in terms of km total length of porticoes. Padua has 12 km of porticoes to the 38 km of Bologna and the 18 km of Turin. At the same time, Padua is second after Bologna in terms of the correlation between the length of its porticoes and that of its streets. The tradition of building porticoes in the city is ancient and nowadays you can find there porticoes of many different eras and styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassical and even several modern ones. In fact, you can walk all over Padua’s historical centre barely popping out of its porticoes. They are not only really useful when the weather is bad, but give the city a certain moodiness, which can only be appreciated when it, actually, rains. So, yes, book a day trip to Padua on a rainy day.
With Kids: Challenge your kids to try to walk the longest distance without having to leave the shelter of the porticoes. Reward them with a big Italian gelato or a hot chocolate with whipped cream.
12. Eat Local at a Sagra
On a rainy Italian evening there is nothing better to do than eat the gorgeous local food surrounded by the locals. A great place to do this are the local sagre – events designed to promote a typical product like a rare local vegetable, type of meat/fish or even truffles. I have described in some detail what a sagra is in this blog post, so click on the link and have a look for yourself. This way, instead of shutting yourself in your hotel room at night just because it is raining outside, be brave and head to a local sagra to sample some of the best food in your life.
With Kids: The sagre are a great place to introduce children to new foods and, as the prices of the dishes served are usually quite cheap, to give them a chance to taste different flavours and textures.
13. Stuff Yourself at an Italian patisserie
Italian patisseries have the best sweets and cakes. It’s like you have died and gone to patisserie heaven! The best bit is that the ever so conscious about their weight Italians make their dolci quite small in size, tiny even. So, you can have quite a few and still be far, far off the calorie intake that a big slab of English cake provides. So, when it rains, you know what to do. Head over to the nearest cafe/patisserie and sample their delights to your heart’s and belly’s content while it is raining outside. Take your time! Enjoy!
With Kids: Kids will totally love you for this.
14. Buy an Umbrella
Well! If you can’t beat them, join them. The thing is that it doesn’t rain that often in Italy at all, but when it does, it pours and you can’t waste half a day of your life being stuck in your room and waiting for the clouds to move over. There are many things to do in the Veneto in particular and Italy as a whole when it rains and one of them is simply to go out and about and enjoy the beauty of the Italian cities and countryside when they are at their wettest. Follow the example of the locals though and invest in a big umbrella. The most popular umbrellas here are golf-sized and are like a little hut over your head. Take your new umbrella for a walk and marvel at the deserted streets and the lack of crowds. It is the perfect time, really, to sightsee without getting squashed by other eager tourists.
With Kids: You may want to add a pair of wellies to your kids’ attire as the appeal of jumping in the puddles on a centuries-old square never gets old.
15. Keep an Eye on the Facebook’s Events Section
I am totally in love with the new-ish Events Section on Facebook. It gives me some great ideas for events which are taking place nearby. If a sudden rain spoils your travel plans, have a look there in order to quickly find something fun to do in a covered space.
With Kids: You can scroll through the many events to see which ones are suitable for children and you can even post a comment on the event’s page to ask the organisers any particular queries you may have.
So, these are my personally tried and tested 15 suggestions for things to do on a rainy day in the Veneto in Northern Italy (with or without the kids). I hope that you enjoyed them and that at least a few of them would come very useful next time that it rains here. Enjoy! And don’t forget to let me know what you would add to this list. Ta!
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