Q and A: How can we do Venice on the cheap?

The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered

Q. Having spent a week last summer in Paris (one day at Euro-Disney, one at Parc Astérix) my daughter (age 10) has the European city bug, and has asked to visit Venice next year. First, will she find the city a little boring? Second, we are not really into beaches and my husband suffers from ME so we can't really go for anything too adventurous. Ideally, we would like to see Venice, and a bit of Italy, as cheaply and easily as possible.

Q. Having spent a week last summer in Paris (one day at Euro-Disney, one at Parc Astérix) my daughter (age 10) has the European city bug, and has asked to visit Venice next year. First, will she find the city a little boring? Second, we are not really into beaches and my husband suffers from ME so we can't really go for anything too adventurous. Ideally, we would like to see Venice, and a bit of Italy, as cheaply and easily as possible.

E Brown, Fife

A. Venice might not score as highly on the theme-park front as Paris but, in pretty much every other respect, the city, and certainly the region, is as stimulating and child-friendly as the French capital. It's also infinitely more impressive than any theme park. Italy, even touristy Venice, is also one of the most child-friendly destinations in Europe. Children are welcomed in cafés and restaurants.

As far as Venice's attractions go, it's the unabashedly corny that are likely to thrill your daughter; take a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, eat multi-coloured gelati in San Marco, and watch the famous glass-blowers in action on the northern island of Murano. One week possibly to avoid is the third week of July when Il Redentore takes place, a festival commemorating the end of the 16th-century plague, involving gondola processions and fireworks. Of course, this could also prove to be a spectacular free show. You should also bear in mind, however, that Venice can get very hot and crowded during the summer, when already expensive (by Italian standards) hotel rates rise with the mercury.

There are ways to cut costs. For example, if you can't afford a gondola ride (prohibitively expensive at around L150,000/€80 or £50), you could take a trip on vaporetto No 1 (the main public water bus along the Grand Canal). A single journey costs a much more reasonable, L6000/€3 (about £2). For more money-saving multi-journey passes and free city maps, go to the ATCV Office in the Piazza at Calle dei Fuseri. For current information about the discounts on museums and public transport available for under 12s, contact the Italian Tourist Board in London (020-7408 1254, www.enit.it).

Moderately priced hotel rooms are available, even in the summer months, but you will have to shop around and definitely book ahead. Expect to pay at least L180,000/€90 per night (about £60) for a room with en suite facilities. Again the Italian Tourist Board can help with accommodation contacts or try room booking agents such as Accommodation Line (020-7409 1343) or Room Service (020-7636 6888, www.roomservice.co.uk).

A good alternative as a base, and an excellent destination in itself is Padua, 25 miles east of Venice. Hotels are significantly cheaper (expect to pay around L90,000/€45 (£30) per night for a room with a bathroom. One of the oldest towns in northern Italy, Padua is home to some impressive art, including Giotto frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel. As Padua is a popular base from which to explore Venice, advance room-booking is essential in the summer. Contact Koko Nor (00 39 049 864 3394, www.intercity.it/associazioni/kokonor/ mainuk.php) for information about the city's new B&B scheme – with rooms from L70,000/€36 (£22). Padua has good bus and train connections to both Venice and Verona, a city well worth a visit.

Finally, if you did want to indulge your daughter with a theme-park fix, Garda Land (00 39 04 56 44 97 77, www.gardaland.it), 25 miles east of Verona near Lake Garda, is Italy's answer to Disneyland. It opens next year from 23 March.

If you plan to base yourself in one city, hiring a car will be a needless exercise. Italian public transport is clean, cheap and efficient and adequately covers the main cities and towns. For example, trains run from Padua to Venice, every 30 minutes (journey time 30 minutes) and cost around L4,100/€2.10 or £1.40) for a single ticket.

Alitalia has abandoned direct flights from the UK to Venice because of the competition from the low-cost airlines from Stansted. Go (0845 60 76543, www.go-fly.com) quotes return fares from £75, and Ryanair (08701 569 569, www.ryanair.com) is quoting return fares of around £68. As ever, booking in advance, being flexible with dates and travelling mid-week ensures the lowest fares. Compare prices with the fares offered by British Airways (0845 77 333 77, www.ba.com), which flies from Heathrow.

BA and Go use Marco Polo airport, four miles north of the city (number 5 bus service into town, L1,500/€0.78 or 50p). Ryanair flies to Treviso airport, 17 miles from Venice, linked to the Piazzale Roma by a coach service costing L7,000/€3.60 one way (£2.30) or L13,000/€6.70 return (£4.30).

Q.With the euro about to kick into action, is there any point in saving some of our lire, francs and escudos for our children in case they might be worth something in the future?

James Pilling, Norfolk

A.Unfortunately, you will struggle to turn your European money into something valuable. From my investigations the message is clear; come 1 January you should start on the right note by giving the lot to charity or changing your "legacy" currencies for euros. Paul Wood of the coin, medal and banknote auctioneers Morton & Eden explains: "Most of the coins are low denomination and were produced in large numbers so it is highly unlikely that they will ever be of any value." To add insult to injury, you're no better off hoarding paper money. "The value of notes is not going to escalate, so you should spend them," says Rick Coleman of the coin and medal auctioneers Glendining's. Most countries will allow you to spend the old notes and coins freely until the end of February, and banks will change them thereafter.

However, if you do keep them, at least they will make an interesting financial history lesson for your children in later life.

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