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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 canals on 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 good looks, trendsetting vibe and historic past; its gondola serenades at sunset, sublime shopping, intimate dining and spa treatments at an opulent old world hotels.    

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 which are unplanned. Start in Piazza San Marco and make sure to stop at the Doge's Palace, where legendary lover Casanova was once held. Then walk out onto the adjacent white marble Bridge of Sighs, named by part-time Venetian resident Lord Byron. From here head towards the Castello district, passing first along the wide Riva deqli 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 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. 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-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
    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 stop in at the Venini, Barovier & Toso, Sequso 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
    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. Grab lunch on sleepy Mazzorbo island, 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 Judgement. The Museo Provinciale di Torcello, in the 14th-century Palazzo dell'Archivio, and the Palazzo del Consiglio, also dating from the 14th century, are worth visiting.
    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 (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 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 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 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 Amore
    Shopping Amore
    Trendy and theatrical, Venice is home to some eclectic, easy to love shopping with Venetian masks, hand-blown glass, designer labels and coffee among the most popular purchases. For Venetian glass you'll want to head to Murano Island. For fabulous leather handbags and an avant-garde womensware line, pay a visit to Arnoldo & Battois, by Venetian designers Silvano Arnoldo and Massimiliano Battois. To dress like the gondoliers, you'll want to head to one of Gianni Dittura's two in town shops for enuine friulane slippers, which has been the major Venice distributor of these unique footware 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 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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