Fall in Love with Venice

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Fall in Love with Venice
As Peggy Guggenheim is credited with saying: To live in Venice, or even to visit it, means that you fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else.
By Rocky Casale, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    Romantic City Walks
    Venice's finest city walks are often those which are unplanned. If you start in San Marco, you can take the quieter way toward Venice's Castello district, passing first along the wide Riva degli Schiavoni before turning toward the Arsenale or down Via Garibaldi toward the Isola do San Pietro. Meander into more lively districts like San Marco, Sata Croco, or San Polo and discover fabulous buildings like the breathtaking Church of San Rocco as well as local haunts such as the fish and produce markets at Rialto.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    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-sized 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 found in conversation.
    Photo by Guillem López/age fotostock
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    The 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. Top international glass brands are also based here, so stop in at the Venini, Barovier & Toso, Seguso, or Ferro Murano factories. Also make time to see the 12th-century mosaic at the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato—it's said to contain the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus. Take 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
    The islands of Burano and Mazzorbo are linked by a bridge, and are both known for their colorfully painted houses. Fine Venetian lacework originated on Burano, although few artisans create it in the traditional way any more because it is so time-consuming. Visit Burano Lace Museum to learn about the origins of the craft. Mazzorbo is covered in orchards and vineyards, and home to a fourteenth-century church. Book a table at Alla Maddalena for lunch; alternatively, Venissa Ristorante is in a walled vineyard and has six private suites, should you choose to spend the night.
    Photo by Kate Smith
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    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 Judgement. The Museo Provinciale di Torcello, in the 14th-century Palazzo dell'Archivio, and the Palazzo del Consiglio, also from the 14th century, are worth visiting.
    Photo by Sabine Lubenow/age fotostock
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    Pastries, Chocolates, and other Sweets
    In keeping with Venice's obsession with fine edibles, pastries, chocolates, and other sweets are readily available throughout the city. For quality, handcrafted chocolates, try Viziovirtù, near Campo San Tomà, where you can watch the house chocolatiers prepare their creations. For pastries, Pasticceria Italo Didovich, near Campo Santa Marina, is famous for its tiramisu, and Marchini Time, in San Marco, serves a variety of desserts as well as coffee and savory bites. Regional Venetian pastries include baìcoli (hard biscuits served with coffee), spumiglia (a light, meringue-style dessert), and the oh-so-romantic baci in gondola (pastry layers and dark chocolate, the name translates as "kisses in the gondola").
    Photo by Joan Wharton
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    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 like 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 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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    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 (motor boats 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 Manin. Bring a bottle of wine—it's not only permitted, it's expected.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    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 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 Guidecca island in the Dorsoduro sestiere.
    Photo courtesy of Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
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