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Fall in Love with Venice

Romantic City Walks
Fall in Love with Venice
It's hard not to fall in love with Venice. Romantic, grandiose, beautiful, this city of marble palaces and saltwater canals in a lagoon is a treasured enigma. Casanova's birthplace is one of the world's most storied romantic destinations, and Venice lives up to its legendary status, enchanting visitors with its gorgeous setting, trendsetting vibe, and fascinating history. Nowhere else can you cap off a day of sublime shopping, intimate dining, and a spa treatment at an opulent old-world hotel with a gondola serenade at sunset.   

By Becca Blond, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    Romantic City Walks
    Romantic City Walks
    Venice's finest city walks are often those that are unplanned. Start in Piazza San Marco and make sure to stop at the Doge's Palace, where legendary lover Casanova was once held prisoner—and then made a legendary escape. Walk out onto the adjacent white-marble Bridge of Sighs, named by part-time Venetian resident Lord Byron. From here head toward the Castello district, passing first along the wide Riva degli Schiavoni—pause for a drink or a bite at the Hotel Londra Palace, which has a restaurant just steps from the lagoon—before turning toward the Arsenal or down Via Garibaldi toward the island of San Pietro. Meander into more lively districts like San Marco, Santa Croce, or San Polo and discover fabulous buildings such as the breathtaking Church of San Rocco, as well as local haunts including the fish and produce markets at Rialto. You'll also want to walk across the famed Rialto Bridge while here.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    <em>Andar per Bàcari</em>
    Andar per Bàcari
    Translated loosely, andar per bàcari can mean "going out," or visiting the small bàcari (snack bars) that are found throughout the city. Visitors refresh themselves with ombra, which are small glasses of wine, and cicheti, bite-size morsels of crostini, cured meats, cheeses, olives, and fresh seafood like mackerel, squid, and sardines. The other key ingredient of the bàcari experience is convivial socializing—they are meeting places where food and drink can be enjoyed at leisure, and pleasure is found in conversation.
    Photo by Guillem López/age fotostock
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    Murano Islands
    Murano Islands
    The Murano Islands are a peaceful getaway from the hustle of Venice. Linked by bridges spanning the channels between them, these seven islands are famed for their glassmakers, and no visit is complete without a stop at the Murano Glass Museum and the Abate Zanetti Glass School (both at the same location). Top international glass brands are also based on Murano, so drop by the Venini, Barovier & Toso, Seguso, or Ferro Murano factories. Also make time to see the 12th-century mosaic at the Church of Santa Maria and San Donato—it's said to contain the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus. Have lunch at one of the restaurants, and don't forget to cap off your visit with some gelato.
    Photo by Carlo Morucchio/age fotostock
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    Burano and Mazzorbo
    Burano and Mazzorbo
    The islands of Burano and Mazzorbo are linked by a bridge and are both known for their colorfully painted houses. Visit the Burano Lace Museum to learn about the craft that originated on this island, though few artisans create it in the traditional way anymore because it is so time-consuming. Sleepy Mazzorbo is covered in orchards and vineyards, and home to a 14th-century church. Grab lunch on Mazzorbo, booking a table at Alla Maddalena or Venissa Ristorante, located in a walled vineyard and with six private suites, should you choose to spend the night.
    Photo by Kate Smith
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    Torcello Island
    Torcello Island
    Verdant, expansive, and barely inhabited, the island of Torcello played a crucial role in Venetian history. Fleeing from the repeated barbarian invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, some Veneti settled on Torcello, and by the 10th century it had a population of at least 10,000. By the 12th century, however, the lagoon in the region had become swampy, bringing an end to the island's political and economic importance. Visitors today should see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was founded in 639 and contains a mosaic of the Last Judgment. The Provincial Museum of Torcello, in the 14th-century Palazzo dell'Archivio, and the Palazzo del Consiglio, also dating from the 14th century, are worth visiting, too.
    Photo by Sabine Lubenow/age fotostock
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    Seduction on a Gondola
    Seduction on a Gondola
    For centuries, Venetians traveled by gondola, the flat-bottomed boat propelled by an oarsman called a gondolier. Gondolas do still have their place in modern Venice, but transport by vaporetti (motorboats used as water buses) has made them more scarce. The one area in which they will never be supplanted is in ferrying around lovers—gondola rides remain iconic representations of the slow-paced Venetian seduction ritual. Rides are set at a standard rate and typically last 40 minutes. There are many gondola stations in San Marco or, for a quieter departure point, try Campo Marin. Bring a bottle of wine—it's not only permitted, it's expected.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    The Evening <em>Aperitivo</em>
    The Evening Aperitivo
    Aperitivo comes from the Latin "to open," denoting both the ritual and the drink that opens you to your meal. In Venice, as in the rest of Italy, the aperitivo begins a meal and consists of socializing over drinks alongside some small plates of food such as olives, nuts, or cheese. This is an unhurried part of the meal tradition and can easily occupy several hours. You may wish to take your aperitivo in a fine hotel like Ca’ Sagredo overlooking the Grand Canal, or find a spot in one of Venice's numerous bàcari (snack bars). Either way, make sure you slow down and open yourself to the experience.
    Photo by Adam Eastland/age fotostock
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    Shopping <em>Amore</em>
    Shopping Amore
    Trendy and theatrical, Venice is home to some eclectic, easy-to-love shopping, with Venetian masks, handblown glass, designer labels, and coffee among the most popular purchases. For Venetian glass, you'll want to head to the island of Murano. For fabulous leather handbags and an avant-garde womenswear line, pay a visit to Arnoldo & Battois, home of Venetian designers Silvano Arnoldo and Massimiliano Battois. To dress like the gondoliers, you'll want to start with a pair of genuine friulane slippers, so head to one of two shops family-owned by Gianni Dittura, one of the major vendors of these unique shoes in Venice for more than 50 years.  






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    Venetian Spas
    Venetian Spas
    The key to a romantic spa experience is the availability of couples' cabins and treatments. Bauers Palladio Hotel & Spa has three unique treatments specifically tailored to couples. Choose between a deep-tissue argan-oil massage, a vigorous head-to-toe hammam experience (for exfoliating and moisturizing), or raspberry aromatherapy and massage. At the Casanova Wellness Center in the Hotel Cipriani, lovers can treat themselves to the Romance Ritual treatment—a total body exfoliation for two, followed by a rose-petal-and-geranium bath. The Hilton Molino Stucky's spa features Turkish baths, twin massage rooms, and a rooftop pool. All three establishments are on Giudecca island in the Dorsoduro sestiere.
    Photo courtesy of Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
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