Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, and all you lovebirds out there are no doubt busily planning romantic getaways à deux to showcase the depth of your love and sparkling passionate spirit. Where better to get the romantic juices flowing than Venice? Easily one of the world’s most romantic cities, the Serenissima’s breathtaking canals and stunning architecture, picturesque views and delicious cuisine make it a perfect destination for couples jetting off for a Valentine’s Day escape. Here are our suggestions for what to do on a romantic break in Venice.
Take a Gondola Ride
Venice is inextricably linked with the iconic flat-bottomed boat in the popular imagination, and for good reason. Nothing evokes the spirit of the city more than the sleek black crafts scudding their way along the city’s canals, expertly piloted by a jauntily-dressed gondolier with a penchant for singing. It might seem a bit touristy, but there really is nothing more romantic than taking a gondola ride through Venice’s picturesque waterways, savouring the city’s unique atmosphere whilst drifting languidly beneath romantic bridges.
Drink in the view of St. Mark's Square at Sunset
There are plenty of brilliant vantage points in Venice where you can gaze on a postcard-perfect sunset, but none can match the thrill of seeing St. Mark’s Square bathed in the magical golden glow of twilight. The sweeping square, described as the ‘Drawing Room of Europe’ by Napoleon, is home to the extraordinary eponymous basilica - the sight of the church’s domes and turrets turning gold in the brilliant light of sunset is one you won’t soon forget. To see the extraordinary interior of the basilica itself without the crowds, join an after hours night tour of Saint Mark’s basilica.
Have a smooch at the Bridge of Sighs
Venice’s most iconic bridge is a sight for sore eyes, and you’ll be sure to visit the Bridge of Sighs when in Venice. A legend of rather dubious provenance has it that couples will be granted eternal love if they kiss under the bridge at sunset, as the bells of nearby St. Mark’s ring. But whilst we don’t hold much truck with the story, an excuse to engage in an amorous embrace in one of the world’s most romantic spots is always welcome! For those who know their history, however, the undeniable romance of the Bridge of Sighs is inevitably tinged with a deep melancholy. The bridge was built to connect the courtrooms of the Doge’s Palace to a nearby prison complex in the 17th century, and according to popular folklore takes its names from the wistful sighs of prisoners catching their last glimpse of Venice’s beauty from the narrow windows of the bridge as they made their reluctant way to incarceration. You can walk along the Bridge of Sighs for yourself on a visit to the Doge’s Palace.
Escape to the islands with your paramour
Whilst there’s plenty of romance to be had in Venice itself, if you’re looking to escape the crowds and carve out some more peaceful time with your partner then you could do worse than to plan a boat ride out to the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon. The island community is a picturesque tangle of brightly coloured houses clinging to narrow canals, where old women sit outside their shops and abodes creating extraordinarily complex lacework - Burano’s main industry for centuries.
Enjoy an idyllic alfresco lunch on Torcello
Whilst out on the waters of the lagoon, make sure to stop off at the nearby island of Torcello. This mysterious and largely abandoned island was where Venetian civilisation began over a thousand years ago. It’s worth the trip simply to explore fascinating historical sites that speak to the first glimmerings of Venetian culture, such as the stunning cathedral. But if you’re looking for romance then you can’t miss a slap-up lunch at Locanda Cipriani, a local institution founded way back in 1934 by the owner of Venice’s famed Harry’s Bar. The restaurant has been serving up elegant fish dishes and refined pasta to a roll-call of celebrities - including Ernest Hemingway and even Queen Elizabeth II - in its leafy garden ever since.
Go Mask Shopping
It’s carnival season in Venice, and that means the city’s mask and costume shops are bursting at the seams with fabulous and eccentric costumes ready for the revellers that will descend on the city for one of the world’s greatest parties. Even if you won’t be in Venice for Carnival itself, you can get in on the action by going mask shopping! Wander through artisan shops in districts like San Polo to discover distinctive handcrafted pieces to bring home - be sure to look out for the "Vera Venetian" label to make sure you're getting the real deal.
Get Lost in the Locals’ Neighbourhood of Cannaregio
Every corner of Venice is amazing in its own right and well worth exploring, but it’s true that some neighbourhoods are more touristy than others. If you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of the main landmarks and fancy going off the beaten track on an adventure, then you should explore the labyrinthine Cannaregio district. Cannaregio is a vibrant neighbourhood where traditional life unfolds amidst charming bridges and tranquil canals where the sounds of Venetian dialect and the aroma of fresh seafood fill the air - a perfect place to immerse yourself in the true spirit of Venice. When in Cannaregio look out for the Ponte Chiodo, the only bridge in Venice that doesn’t feature handrails.
Get to grips with Venice’s incredible artistic heritage
Amongst its many charms, the city known as La Serenissima is one of the world’s greatest cities of art. From Bellini to Titian, Tintoretto to Veronese, testaments to Venice’s remarkable art scene are everywhere you look. Of course, Venice itself is a work of art, and generations of Venetian painters were inspired by the stunning environment all around them to forge a new, highly expressive language of art. You can’t not engage with this central part of Venetian culture on a visit to Venice. The Accademia Gallery, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and the Tintoretto-decorated Scuola di San Rocco, known as Venice’s Sistine Chapel, need to be at the top of your list. To visit these and other highlights of Venetian art, consider joining a Venice art tour.
Gaze on the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge
The Grand Canal is Venice’s most important waterway, a vital lifeline for the city that snakes and meanders its way all through the Serenissima. There’s no better place to watch the vibrant spectacle than from atop the Rialto Bridge: from here the great watery expanse of the Grand Canal spreads out before you like a glittering Renaissance landscape painting, colourful palaces, teeming jetties and all manner of boats framed by the serene classical architecture of Antonio da Ponte’s 1591 masterpiece of engineering. It’s easy to lose yourself entirely to the captivating view from up here; come here at dawn and you’ll probably have this picturesque paradise almost entirely to yourself.
Have a Romantic Dinner at a Canal-Side Restaurant
If you’re in Venice on Valentine’s Day then it goes without saying that a romantic dinner at some elegant canal-side bistro is an absolute must. There’s nothing to stir the inner Cassanova in you like tucking into refined traditional Venetian cuisine while being serenaded by the soft sounds of water lapping against the city’s buildings in the moonlight. Venetian cooking is particularly renowned for its fresh seafood dishes, so look out for classic plates like Baccalà Mantecato, a kind of creamed cod, Sarde in Saor, sweet-and sour sardines, and Risotto al Nero di Seppia, risotto with cuttlefish ink. Make sure to order a bottle of good local white wine too - soave, pinot grigio and glera are three Venetian grape varieties that you’ll regularly find on menus.
We hope we’ve given you some inspiration to start planning a romantic getaway to Venice! Through Eternity Tours offer a range of insider itineraries in the Floating City, so if you’re taking a trip to Venice this year check out our website or get in touch with our expert travel planners today!