There simply is no other city in the world like Venice. Oh, you say – Amsterdam has canals, Houston has the Riverwalk, and for that matter, Seattle has water all through the city. True but they also have something Venice does not have: streets, with cars, buses, even trolleys. Venice LIVES on the waterways.
Everywhere you can walk in Venice leads to or adjoins water. Small bridges like the Ponte Della Paglia traverse a canal that lies under the Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners were heard to “sigh” as they made the walk to their death from the prison. The glorious Rialto bridge has the most prominent position on the Grand Canal. Try eating at Ristorante Florida which sits on the edge of the canal and offers an exquisite view of the bridge. Water everywhere and mostly plied by the quiet gondolas.
Having no traffic means you have the unfettered freedom to stroll through the narrow – let’s call them walkways, not streets – without having to look behind you for cars, or even those ubiquitous Vespas that plague other Italian cities. I loved discovering tiny pathways and looking up to be amazed by the connected bridges across the tops. I loved discovering tiny walkways and then looking up to see their connections above. Of course, its hard to look up with all the shops that Venice offers.
No big chains and only a few luxury boutiques here. Instead, locals show off the crafts made famous here: glassware, masks, writing papers, old maps, and the like. Prices vary so be sure to look at several shops before purchasing. Many owners offer personalization on gift items. Nice to see almost no street vendors, probably because the streets are too narrow!
Do take to the water to see the other small islands off the main city. Murano is world famous for its glass, and there are free demonstrations by the artisans here, many of whom are second or third generation glass blowers. Less well known is Burano, but definitely worth a visit (usually the tour boats to Murano go there too). It has house painted in an array of bright colors, and a canal through the main part of the town.
Then there is The Piazza de San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), home of the bell tower and the Doge Palace. These are the “Kodak moment” sights that cannot be missed. Yes, pigeons flock enough that you can get photos with them even when you don’t want pictures with them. Just stop a minute, look at your partner, and take in the most romantic place in the world. That will surely lead to a gondola ride, which will seem trite, until you are actually gliding through a shaded canal cuddled at the end of the boat.
Where does the romance begin and end…with a great hotel like The Splendid Venice. This classic European style hotel is situated right between the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco so its easy walking to all of Venice. The level of service and the quality of the room we had was second only to Il San Pietro di Positano. Our room had shutters than opened to a quiet canal. The restaurant is in an interior courtyard, normally open to the sky above, but secured by a glass canopy when it rains. Perfect for a “dopo espresso” after an afternoon walk, or a magnificent breakfast buffet (this was before the Pandemic). After dinner here or elsewhere, try the rooftop patio, with drinks and desserts served by candlelight, accompanied by light music too!
If all this sounds like great romance to you, top it off by combining a great restaurant on a quiet canal with the gondolas drifting by! Ristorante Sempione lies right opposite the Splendid Venice, with a few tables on balconies actually over the edge of the canal. The food, the wine, the views…sensory overload never tasted or sounded so sweet! La Dolce Vita!
Epilogue: I don’t usually write about the voyage to get to a city, but Venice again is different! You can fly into Its airport and catch a vaporetto ( water taxi) or private boat directly to your hotel! You’ll feel like James Bond in Casino Royale.