You’ve seen the photos. You’ve heard the stories about moonlit gondola rides through the canals and hand-in-hand strolls down dimly lit streets surrounded by grand buildings that speak of a rich and sometimes tumultuous history. But unless you’ve been to Venice, you don’t really understand the feeling you get when you cross the Bridge of Sighs or listen to the strains of the gondolier as he sings his favorite Italian tune.
Truly, everyone who has even a remotely romantic bone in their body should make a trip to Venice with their special someone. Even the likes of Paris and other “romantic” cities don’t compare with stunning Venice, renowned for its breathtaking Venetian Gothic architecture, its amazing art museums, and – simply – its overall beauty. While many will tell you that Venice has seen better days – some studies suggest the city is sinking and many buildings have been affected – it still ranks as one of the top destinations in Italy and – in fact – in all of Europe.
Planning your Trip
On a “normal” tour of Italy – the kind that travels around the country via motorcoach – they generally allot a few days to visit Venice. If you truly want to experience not only the startling makes-your-jaw-drop-open beauty of this seemingly floating city but also it’s amazing culture, you’ll want to set aside at least 4 or 5 days. As a matter of fact, if you’re thinking about dispensing with Rome and Florence – the other 2 cities in Italy’s “big 3” – book a week’s worth of stays. That’ll not only give you time to do all the romantic stuff, but it will also allow you to attend concerts, linger in art museums, and experience many of the city’s fine restaurants.
Venice is always full of tourists. It’s just a fact of life. Even the weather doesn’t deter them, for the most part. The summers, however, are extremely hot and many tourists find it oppressive and simply can’t cope. May and early June are quite pleasant as are most of September through October. While the temperatures are certainly bearable during the rest of the year as well, the months of November through early April bring the “acqua alta” – high water that causes tremendous street flooding – making it somewhat tough to get around, even though the Venetians have set up walkways to counteract the problem.
Romantic Places to Stay
Hotels in Venice – like everything else – aren’t cheap, and there isn’t much of a shoulder season so rates are up there through most of the year. Nonetheless, if you can afford to splurge a little, you’ll want to choose accommodations that provide sparkling views of the city. It’s a splurge you won’t regret and the views will certainly add a little extra spark to your second honeymoon or romantic getaway.
That said, reservations are really a must, especially if you have a particular hotel in mind. And if you’re ready to spend some extra bucks, consider places like the Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo or Hotel Le Isole, where you’ll bathe in the lap of luxury, watch gondolas from your window, and enjoy being within walking distance of the top attractions in the city, yet a little removed from the hustle and bustle. Though the rooms are small by American standards, they are beautifully decorated, clean, and comfortable.
Hotels that are still luxurious but a little less expensive include the Hotel Canal Grande, Hotel Ca’ Dogaressa, Ca’ dei Dogi, and the Villa Laguna. A few are a little hard to find but gems nonetheless. Also check on sites like TripAdvisor to see what romance-oriented travelers believe are the best romantic hotels in the city.
While finding the right hotel room is important, so is exploring the city. You probably realize that there are no cars in Venice. Locals and visitors alike travel either or the city’s water buses – vaporetti – or they simply walk from place to place. You’ll want to do both. Exploring by water and exploring on foot provide two very different experiences. While the views from the water are breathtaking, walking also allows you to explore the little side streets and their hidden gems.
Of course, the first must-do in Venice is a ride on a gondola. Now, there may be people that try to talk you out of doing this because of the cost. There’s no doubt that this is one of the most expensive things you’ll do in Venice. It’s not unusual to pay up to 100 Euros for a 45-minute tour for up to 6 passengers. If you want a private trip, however, you’ll likely pay a lot more. Is it worth it? You betcha! There’s literally nothing else like it in the world and to miss it while you’re there would be nothing short of a crime and a move you’ll long regret. What you may want to dispense with, however, is the singing, accordion-playing gondolier. He adds to the cost and, frankly, you’ll better enjoy the ride in peace and quiet. Remember, however, to always negotiate the price before you step on board.
Other things you must do while in Venice include visits to the Basilica of San Marco and San Marco (St. Mark’s) Square (if you don’t mind the pigeons); the Accademia – one of the most glorious art museums in Europe, featuring the world’s most extensive collection of awe-inspiring Venetian works; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, another impressive art museum; the Palazzo Ducale, residence of the Venetian doges for more than 1,000 years; the Ca’ d’Oro, one the best preserved palazzi (palaces) in the city; and – of course – a walk across the Bridge of Sighs, where it is said convicts caught their last view of Venice before their imprisonment. And remember, when you pass under the Bridge of Sighs on your gondola ride, you’ll want to steal a kiss. Legend says that any couple that kisses under the bridge at sunset will be granted everlasting love and bliss. Why mess with legend?