I left my heart in Venice By Lauren Steventon

Explore the romance hidden along the tiny streets and secret canals of the Serene Republic.

Venice

For some, the most romantic city in the world is Paris. For others it is the baroque masterpieces of the Eastern European greats. But for me, it has to be Venice. Around every corner is a scene stolen from a romantic film. Every alleyway is a path to another quiet corner, and every bridge just perfect for a picturesque embrace. True, the tourist throngs overtake the city every May – September, but skip the well-trodden path between the Rialto and San Marco, and you find yourself in almost deserted streets, tiny passageways leading to humpback bridges crossing palazzo-lined canals. Step into a run-down cichetti bar and you might just discover the best meal you’ll eat all trip, washed down with a bitter spritz or a glass of dry, bubbling prosecco. Turn another corner and you’ll bump into a mascherari (mask-maker) creating authentic carnivalle creations, or a gondolieri rowing along a narrow waterway. Peaceful, beautiful and romantic to the core – the perfect honeymoon city spot…

District Guide

If you really want to avoid the hoards, make a break for one of the less central areas of the island. Everywhere is walkable, and one of the joys of this city, handily enclosed as it is by the lagoon, is getting lost along its winding streets. The Grand Canal is never too far away, and once you’re there, you can get anywhere.

Guidecca:
Five minutes across the lagoon, yet a world away in pace and personality. Here, the days a longer and lazier, with never a traveller in sight. Wander along the water front towards the Fortuny lamp factory, where stunning silk and glass lamps are still hand-painted, and stop off in one of the cute little restaurants with amazing views across the lagoon to San Marco or the basilica.

Dorsoduro:
Venice’s arts district with a laid-back, less frenetic vibe than that across the Grand Canal. Jump off the vaparetto at Salute and head along the streets towards the Peggy Guggenheim collection, an exceptional selection of modern art collected by the late great Guggenheim. You can continue to wander through the streets, past small galleries, crafts and jewellery shops towards the Academia Bridge, and then onwards through winding streets to the Rialto, or head to the other side of the strip and walk towards the port along the massive waterfront promenade.

Castello:
Make a break from the San Marco masses and head east towards the Giardini Pubblici. Tiny cafés line the waterfront…

San Polo:
A lovely place for an evening walk when the crowds have dissipated somewhat. Although proximity to the Rialto means you won’t always find yourself alone, simply step off the tourist trail and you’ll enter into some much-welcomed peace and quiet. Few cities can offer such serenity alongside their consumerist areas, but Venice not like any other city – and for those willing to look, she isn’t shy of divulging her secrets.

Stay

DD724:
Completely convenient for any part of the city, DD724 is a (very) upmarket B&B style boutique. Filled with funky art pieces and modern décor, it perfectly fits its creative location in Dursoduoro, literally around the corner from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and a very short walk from Academia and the Dorsoduro (head to Vizio Virtu just off Calle de Campaniel for incredible chocolates). Rooms are chicly, but simply, furnished, with thoughtful touches such as a natural mosquito repellent kit (the one downside of a canal view!)

Tel: +39 04 12770262

www.thecharminghouse.com

Cipriani:
One of Venice’s, indeed, one of Italy’s, most famous hotels, the Cipriani certainly lives up to its reputation. Nestled in lush gardens on Guidecca it is just a five minute private speedboat transfer (which runs 24 hours a day) from San Marco. Rooms are as luxurious as you might expect, in pastel colours with massive marble bathrooms, Fortuny lamps and original oil paintings. This is a truly spoiling romantic retreat – complete privacy is the name of the day, with many rooms boasting private terraces (overlooking the massive pool – the only one in Venice!) and the entire hotel hidden away from prying eyes. Maybe that’s why the Hollywood elite keep coming back – or maybe it’s the friendly service, or the romantic dinner’s at Fortuny, in the gardens, or Cip’s Club, overlooking the lagoon and San Marco.

Tel: +39 04 1520 7744

www.hotelcipriani.com

The Luxury Channels Top 10 anti-tourist tips:

  1. Vizio Virtu do the best chocolates in town, sold in a tiny store in the Dorsoduro.
  2. Linger over cichetti at Dai Zemei , just off the Rugga Vechia di S. Giovanni by the Rialto but popular with Venetians.
  3. Join the locals in drinking a spritz rather than an over-priced Bellini – try the version with artichoke liqueur instead of Campari. Honestly!
  4. If you want one tourist experience book WAY ahead for the Secret passageways tour of the Doge’s Palace. Only 30 people at time, twice a day in English…
  5. If you want to take a gondola, make sure you insist on sticking to the small canals.
  6. Murano is pretty, but Burano is prettier… Forget the glass and the hoards it attracts and head out to the multi-coloured fishing villages instead.
  7. Masks are on sale EVERYWHERE, but if you want the genuine article, find a proper mascherari. At Atelier Marega (www.marega.it) Carlo and his assistant make and paint them in the shop.
  8. Ignore champagne and celebrate in a truly Venetian way with prosecco. There are some lovely local varieties.
  9. Get lost. As soon as you see a crowd, head in the opposite direction. You’ll always be able to find your way, and the quieter, local streets are far more interesting.
  10. See the Guggenheim. It’s not just another art museum.
  11. 10. Hire Enrico Isacchi to guide you through the city. His network of insider contacts means that he can get exclusive access to many sights and museums, as well as private residences. Tel: +39 335 530 4125, email: eisacchi@me.com.