Afloat in Venice

With its labyrinth of canals, poignant beauty and enduring magic, Venice has mesmerized artists, writers and romantics for centuries. This same magic endures today, making this ancient city a memorable place to spend your first days together as husband and wife.

With its labyrinth of canals, poignant beauty and enduring magic, Venice has mesmerized artists, writers and romantics for centuries. This same magic endures today, making this ancient city a memorable place to spend your first days together as husband and wife.

You’ve seen it in the diamond commercial, but nothing quite prepares you for your first real-life sighting of Venice’s landmark Piazza San Marco, the grand square at the heart of the city. Surrounded by swirling pigeons and bobbing gondolas, the majestic Basilica di San Marco, with its dome-shaped towers, rises at the end of the square, covered with statues and mosaics, while the campanile (bell tower) lords over a vast plain of stone, surrounded by endless arcades of shops and restaurants.

To inhale San Marco’s ambiance, take a table at one of the cafes around the square, such as the historic Caffé Florian or the Gran Caffé Quadri. Sip an espresso, toast your recent nuptials with a glass of wine, or savor an Italian fruit juice. (Prices can be high, but it’s well worth the enchantment.) Often in the evening, a small orchestra plays soft music.

And all day and night you’re surrounded by the riches of history.

The first basilica at San Marco was completed in A.D. 832. More than a thousand years later, Venice remains remarkably unchanged. Though there are modern conveniences, people still get around by boat, and the fronts of houses still look as if they’re close to crumbling into the canal.

To fully experience the ancient charm of Venice, take off on foot in any direction on the narrow, cobblestone alleyways that run along, over, and between the city’s canals. Get pleasantly lost in the maze of green courtyards, small shops, and family-owned eateries.

If you look, you’ll even discover intriguing shopping in leather goods, jewelry (look for delicate bracelets and necklaces made from Murano glass), handmade paper, glass art and sculptures, tapestries, and intricately designed masks.

For an elegant and low-key outing, reserve a terrace table at Cip’s Club in the luxurious Hotel Cipriani on the island of Giudecca. The hotel’s 24-hour private launch crosses the lagoon in five minutes to and from the Piazza San Marco. An intimate lunch or dinner on the terrace embodies the very essence of Venetian romance, with carefully prepared seafood served against one of the world’s most spectacular views: across the lagoon to the magnificent backdrop of the Basilica di San Marco and the ornate Doge’s Palace. Top off your meal with one of the hotel’s signature desserts: soft chocolate tartlets with pistachio sauce.

Better yet, opt to stay at this impeccably stylish island hotel. Here, you’ll enjoy privacy in a tranquil and lovely garden setting. The Cipriani’s Venetian Interlude includes junior suite accommodations, champagne breakfast served in your room or on your private terrace, lunch or dinner each day at any of Cipriani’s restaurants, use of the gym, and a facial treatment or massage at the Casanova Beauty & Wellness Center. All rooms offer superb views of the lagoon and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore or the walled gardens and vineyards.

Back in town, only steps away from the Piazza San Marco, the sumptuous Hotel Danieli also beckons newlyweds. The restored hotel’s main building was once the palace of the Doge, the chief magistrate of Venice. After the palace became a hotel in 1822, it was a magnet for such artistic travelers as Dickens and Wagner. You can’t miss the hotel’s pink facade on the panoramic promenade Riva degli Schiavoni, overlooking the Grand Canal. The canal itself is teeming with water taxis, water buses, excursion boats, and the touristy yet charming gondolas that shuffle people from place to place.

Within an easy walk, try the atmospheric Grand Canal Restaurant at the Hotel Monaco, with the romantic backdrop of the Grand Canal and views over the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Built in 1638, the former palace has hosted nobility over the years. Now, locals and visitors alike relish the pasta that’s made fresh every day, as well as other traditional Venetian cuisine.

Two if By Sea
Immerse yourself in la dolce vita by navigating the lagoon islands in a self-skippered cabin cruiser. You and your new hubby can charter a boat through companies such as Crown Blue Line in Casier, and enjoy comfort, privacy and the freedom to roam. The cozy quarters of your chartered boat come with plenty of creature comforts, and the spacious upper deck offers a 360-degree view.

After you check into the base at nearby Casier, Crown Blue Line staff will show you all the cabin cruiser’s operations. Some boating experience is handy, but the line makes it easy for novices take charge of the vessel.

While it’s not easy to leave the riches of Venice, do visit the smaller nearby islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Because Murano is known worldwide for its stunning glass, visit one of the factories, such as Cam Vetri d’Arte, for a glass-blowing demonstration.

On the old fishermens’ island of Burano, you’ll be enthralled with the brightly colored homes that seem to be in harmony with each other. If you’re on the tiny island in the morning, check out the lively fish market. Burano is known, too, for its meticulous lacework on everything from shawls to linens. Browse through lace and tapestry shops and watch a lace-sewing demonstration.

For a quieter stop, take in the historic island of Torcello. Once a refuge for the Venetians fleeing from the barbarians nearly 2,000 years ago, it’s now home to around 60 people and the ancient cathedral of Santa Fosca, testimony to the Venetian-Byzantine style.

Here, Locanda Cipriani (Cipriani’s Inn) has hosted celebrity clientele the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Paul Newman and the Royal Family. It’s a great place for lunch on the partially covered terrace, surrounded by trellises of brilliant flowers and vines, with a view of the stone church.

For a simple, romantic meal for two, just moor for the night, stroll to a nearby town, pick up a loaf of crusty bread and add ripe fruit, Parma ham and a local cheese such as Asiago, fontina or Montasio. Top off your treasure trove with a bottle of local wine, either a red Bardolino or Bianco di Custoza white Soave. Toast your getaway with the Veneto region’s own sparkling wine, prosecco, or try a traditional Bellini, a mix of dry or sparkling white wine and fresh white-peach juice.

A great place to stock up for a serious onboard meal is Venice’s San Polo district and the Rialto Bridge. During the morning hours, you’ll see colorful food markets and boisterous vendors. This is the place to gather the makings of a shipside feast, and be entertained in the process. Which is what Venice is all about—making memorable moments out of something as mundane as grocery shopping.

Venice Is for Shoppers

Venice’s rich shopping can be overwhelming—around every corner there seems to be another maskmaker or jewelry shop. Here are a few of our favorite stops:

Maskmaker Marega Renzo creates exquisite pieces, from the porcelain masks that reflect centuries-old tradition to newer, bolder masks rich in color and decked in pearls or ostrich feathers, often with a smattering of tasteful sequins. You’ll find the shop in the district of Castello 4968 along one of the alleyways, Fondamenta dell’Osmarin.

For one-of-a-kind jewelry—earrings, necklaces and pins—step into the minuscule Le Perle at San Marco 1231. The young, innovative jeweler painstakingly fashions pieces from the coveted glass and beads of Murano. If you’d like, she’ll craft a piece of wearable art just for you.

If you love sunglasses or eyeglasses, pop into Ottica Urbani, just outside of the Piazza San Marco, and try on some of the bold, punchy frames that the shop designs and makes. Pick a shape and a color from tortoise to electric blue and take the frames home to your own optician. Especially worth noting are the sturdy foldable frames.