Romancing Venice

 Venice at Sunset   

Venice at Sunset

 

Of all the cities in the world, only Paris comes remotely close to matching Venice in terms of sheer beauty and romance. You've seen it in photos and films, but there's no substitute for the reality -- the shimmering Grand Canal, the gondolas slipping down watery alleyways, the elegant palazzo's emerging straight from the sea. Venice is exquisite, not just for its unique combination of islands and canals, but for the history of St. Mark's Square, Doges' Palace and the famous Bridge of Sighs.

Aside from a number of charming squares, such as the famous Piazza San Marco, Venice is mostly comprised of narrow canals and streets spread over 100 islands. These tangled passageways are an attraction among themselves. There are few better cities to simply get lost in (we certainly did), particularly if you want to escape the touristy areas that clog the main arteries around San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Yes, it may be a touristy thing to do but, a gondola ride is also incredibly romantic (particularly at sunset). It offers a different perspective of Venice -- from the water, along tiny canals, where a vaporetti cannot go. Venice has so much to offer from charming wine bars and outside restaurants, boutiques and hotels for every price range.

 Gondolier on the Bridge of Sigh

Gondolier on the Bridge of Sigh

If you are interested in glass-making you should visit the island of Murano. (vaporetti's run on a regular schedule from Piazza San Marco.) You can see the process and technique of glass-making, and there's a gift shop. Although you don't have to go to Murano to buy glass made there (numerous shops and galleries sell it), for the best selection -- from traditional to quite contemporary pieces -- this was my favorite nearby island with all the different rainbow color houses lining their streets. A bit farther is the charming island village of Burano, again known for its brightly colored houses and its beautiful handmade lace. 

 Flower Box along the Canals of Venice

Flower Box along the Canals of Venice

Once you've seen the major sights, fold up your map and set off on foot. You'll discover pretty, residential neighborhoods with colorful flower boxes in the windows and clean laundry billowing in the breeze. You'll discover tiny outdoor cafes tucked away into corners. Beautiful churches with artwork that is so amazing to view and you certainly won't have to look far to find romance. And, away from the vaporetti  and motorboat traffic on the Grand Canal, you'll discover one more pleasure of this place, the unexpected quiet of a city without cars.

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