Think Venice and its gondola rides, beautiful churches, mouth-watering pizzas and pastas, Casanova, and musicals that flash through your imagination. Venice is probably one of the most romantic cities on earth. Venice is built on an archipelago of 117 islands connected by 177 canals and 409 bridges. A gondola ride, whether during the day or by moonlight, is probably the done thing if you are in Venice. You will invariably be quoted a high price, so be prepared for a lot of bargaining. But, try not to fall for the frills like a song or music, etc. on the ride, they are not worth it.
As you sail down the Grand Canal, don’t miss the line-up of the grand palazzos of the Venetian ruling classes. On the way is the Rialto – the shop-lined 16th-century bridge, the busy Pescheria or fish market, and lopsided Ca’ Dario – said to be cursed as several of its owners have met unhappy deaths. Want to bring some style with your love? Find out about helicopter rides over Venice. They can be really exciting and romantic.
Enjoy some lovely sunset views at the Giardini Pubblici in Castello, the park at Sant’Elena, the Giudecca Canal, and at the Giudecca island waterfront. Other romantic ideas could include visits to the Accademia Bridge, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Giudecca island, and the Zattere.
If you are an early riser, head for St. Mark’s square for the beautiful sight of acres of glittering gold mosaics and no crowds! Also, go up St. Mark’s Bell Tower which was built on Roman ruins of the 1st century for a lovely view of the city. Enjoy quiet moments at the Rialto market and bridge looking down the river and its gondolas, or take a walk down Zattere along the Giudecca canal to see how a gondola is made at the shipyard.
Do visit Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and see where Casanova was jailed – he was able to escape from here too! The Jewish Ghetto, with its five synagogues, is also an interesting place.
The beautiful churches of Venice should not be missed. At St. Mark’s Basilica (and some others too) please avoid wearing short skirts, shorts, having bare shoulders, and taking photographs. Do look up others too like San Giacomo di Rialto, San Giovanni e Paolo, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, San Simeone Piccolo, and the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello.
Try the famous mouth-watering seafood in Venice. Go for sarde in saór (sardines marinated to preserve them for long voyages); bacalà mantecato (a Norwegian stockfish dish with extra-virgin olive oil); bisàto (marinated eel); risi e bisi, rice, peas and (not smoked) bacon; fegato alla veneziana, Venetian-style veal liver; cicchétti, refined and delicious tidbits (akin to tapas); antipasti (appetizers); and prosecco, the mildly sweet wine. You must try the golden, oval-shaped cookies called baìcoli, and sweets like pan del pescatore (bread of the fisherman); the bussolài (butter biscuits and shortbread made in the shape of a ring or of an “S”); the galàni or cróstoli (angel wings) the frìtole (spherical doughnuts); the fregolòtta (a crumbly cake with almonds); and a milk pudding called rosada.
Restaurants near the Rialto Bridge offer a Venetian experience of dining by the canal lights. There are happy hours too, before dinner, called ‘bacari’ when you can try the wine bars for typical aperitifs and taste the ‘cicchetti’ snack, croutons, meat cooked on a spit, savoury pastries, etc. Interestingly, you could even learn the art of Italian cooking – just attend some of the cooking classes run for half a day or full day.
Looking for nightlife or pubbing? Try Mestre, or Lido, or the F.ta della Misericordia, Santa Margherita, Caffé Rosso or Round Midnight, or many others. Some words of caution, though. Do not touch the water in the canals, it’s not clean. At night walk carefully, as there are many alleys which end in the water but have little lighting and you could even step on a pet’s pooh. It is easy to get lost, so when you cross bridges note the house numbers before and after! And, follow only official signages, graffiti can be incorrect!