With more than 100 islands connected by footbridges and winding alleyways, Venice―your choice for an ultimate romantic getaway―has many secrets to explore.

By Alison Bing
March 18, 2009
Douglas Merriam

The most hopeful place in the world for romantics may be the Sotoportego dei Preti, a picturesque arched passageway capped with a reddish, heart-shaped brick. Located just steps from Venice’s famed Piazza San Marco, legend has it that solo travelers who tap the cuore in mattone (brick heart) are destined to fall in love immediately, while couples who touch it at the same time will remain devoted forever.

Take a cue from those in the know, and explore more of the intimate hideaways of this passionate and historic city gently laced by the sea.

Live well

Museums are often the last place you’d expect to find romance, but Venice’s greatest masterpieces are tucked away on the upper floors of sumptuous palaces. Find a prime example in the trompe l’oeil domed ceiling frescoes of artist Giambattista Tiepolo just down the canal from Campo Santa Margherita at the Ca’ Rezzonico Museum of 18th Century Arts, where the wedding of Ludovico Rezzonico and his bride is shown in glowing paintings of the happy couple.

Be fit

Although walking is usually the fastest option for travel around Venice, boats offer fascinating views of the city, reflected in quiet backwaters and narrow canals. Avoid the tourist-heavy gondola queues and sail the back canals of Venice at sunset on a private Venetian sailboat with Laguna Eco Adventures. Instead of paying a gondolier as much as €100 per hour (plus extra for singing), enjoy drifting through a labyrinth of palace-lined canals―2 1/2-hour trips at sunset run €60. You’ll feel as though you have the entire city to yourself.

Innovative Venetians have combined the Italian tradition of the passeggiata (evening stroll) with the universally popular bar crawl into a roving happy hour known as giro di ombra. Around 6:30 p.m., set off from centrally located San Marco to Campo Santa Margherita’s Imagina Caffe for a spritz, the Venetian cocktail of bittersweet Aperol aperitif and bubbly prosecco.

Eat Smart

Venetian cuisine owes its clean, bright flavors to the abundant fresh seafood and garden produce harvested from the lagoon and nearby islands.

Orient yourself to the city’s foods at the Rialto Markets, where hawkers literally sing the praises of castraure (baby artichokes) from the nearby island of San Erasmo and granchio (spider crabs). Just around the corner at secluded All’Arco, fans of local food converge for the city’s most imaginative cicheti, otherwise known as Venetian tapas. Chef Francesco Pinto and his son, Matteo, make up the menu based on their early-morning choices from the Rialto market. With the change left from your €20, stroll to Gelateria San Stae for a scoop of a seasonal fruit flavor like frutti di bosco (wild berry) or classic Venetian roasted pistachio.

At sunset, head to the Terrazza Danieli for a romantic dinner for two. The historic Danieli Hotel’s rooftop restaurant overlooks the Ducal Palace next door. Arrive before 6:30 p.m. for a sunset-tinted signature cocktail of gin, apricot and orange juices, and a splash of grenadine, then head inside for dinner. The Danieli’s young Chef Gian Nicola Colucci is inspired by Venice’s spice-trading past.

Where to stay

Unforgettable Venetian love affairs begin at dawn, watching morning mists lift above the Grand Canal as you sip cappuccino on your balcony at the Westin Europa & Regina. Just one footbridge from the Piazza San Marco, the Europa & Regina combines two baroque hotels and a private palace. The result offers intimacy, historic charm, and more Grand Canal frontage and waterfront views than any other Venetian hotel.

Venice guide

Climate: To have more of Venice to yourself, visit in spring or fall, when temperatures are a mild 60 to 80 degrees and humidity is low.

Transportation: Once you arrive in Venice, you‘ll be traveling on foot or vaporetto (water bus). Venice has narrow, labyrinthine streets, so pack a good map. Streetwise City Maps are a favorite.

Keep in mind: To call Venice from the United States, preface phone numbers with “011,” and remember that Venice is six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time.