This is the city of Casanova and while I am not suggesting anyone follows his model of multiple seductions, Venice is clearly a place that turns the mind to romance.
The sheer beauty of the place brings the senses alive: the churches and palazzos rising out of the mists or glowing in the sunsets, the sounds of water lapping as gondolas float past and hidden voices and laughter echoing around the narrow canals, and the tiptap of footsteps on stone, the tastes of delicious foods.
On any romantic trip to Venice you must have a gondola ride. It sounds clichéd and it is expensive but you will never forget it. Tucked into the narrow boat with your loved one and just the gondolier for company you’ll be away from the crowds of Venice as you see this unique city they way it was meant to be seen: from water level.
A few tips for taking a gondola ride. You will have about 40 minutes for around 80 euro (find out from the hotel concierge what the current rate is, and be sure to agree the price before you get into the gondola). Take a bottle of champagne and some glasses – most gondoliers are fine with you doing this. Don’t pay extra for musicians – they’ll just crowd you. Choose carefully where you want to go and plan it with your gondolier: Grand Canal, quiet minor canals? And find out which are the peak places and times of day and avoid them or you will end up in a gondola traffic jam rather than gliding along peacefully and alone.
Finding somewhere to be alone together in Venice can be quite challenging but the city does quieten down at night and you might find yourselves alone on the Accademia Bridge after 9pm, or even have St Mark’s Square pretty much to yourself after about 11pm if you want to propose in magical surroundings.
Heading out to some of the islands will give you a bit more peace and quiet too. Taking a tour to Torcello, Murano and Burano is lovely, or head out on the vaporetto to Giudecca island (stop: Zitelle) and sit on the benches looking across the water towards San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. The Hilton hotel on Giudecca has a rooftop Skyline Bar.
My favorite hotel in Venice is Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth and while it’s not the most luxurious what it does have is a lovely quiet garden out the back and a rooftop terrace with stunning views over the lagoon, which is usually deserted and where they will serve you drinks from the bar downstairs.
Taking a picnic to the Giardini Pubblici, the gardens at the end of the main island in Castello, along from San Marco, which is a green oasis in Venice, is lovely. This is where the art biennale is held every odd-numbered year so in mid-summer of those years areas might be off limits, but the rest of the time it’s great to wander through. From the waterfront here you’ll get great sunset views.
One of the best things to do in Venice is to just wander, get lost, and discover – this goes for churches which are hidden around so many corners and in tiny back squares and nearly all have something wonderful to see inside, as well as for restaurants and bars. You’ll find your own special places – and be hard pressed to ever find them again: that’s Venice – mysterious, secretive, surprising.
But one very magical place you must find is the lover’s heart embedded in a wall. The street name is Sotoportego dei Preti. It is more a small passageway between two houses and the heart is just above the low arched entryway. To get there find Campo de la Bragora off the Riva degli Schiavoni (the promenade which runs from San Marco along the lagoon). From Campo de la Bragora head up Calle del Dose, to Via Salizada del Pignater. From here you’ll find Sotoportego dei Preti. If you are in a relationship, touch the heart together and your love will be eternal. If you are single touch the heart alone and you will find love within one year. Or so the legend goes.