Falling in love with Venice, Italy

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Love reigns in Venice through its romantic canals, centuries-old buildings, history and food. Visitors need more than a one- or two-day trip to fully explore its many charms.

And while it is easy to hover near the lagoon as the gondolas and water taxis glide by the front terrace of the historic Hotel Monaco, one only finds those charms off the tourist path — in the city’s neighborhoods, churches and small eateries.

Venetian sestieri

Venice rests among an archipelago of small islands connected by hundreds of bridges and, the old city center is divided into six sestieri, or neighborhoods — Cannaregio (the most populated), Castello (the largest), Dorsoduro, San Marco (the most popular), San Polo and Santa Croce (the only one that permits cars).

St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Ducal Palace, the erstwhile home of the city’s political leader, the doge, beckon most tourists to San Marco.

But that sestiere should not be your only stop, lest you miss some of Venice’s ancient churches, lively cafes and beautiful places in other districts such as Castello and Dorsoduro.

Each neighborhood is remarkable and deserves your attention. Step away from the throngs of San Marco and explore where the Venetians live and play. Or plan a day on Venice’s beaches.

Wherever you may wander, Venice’s art and zest for life will be on brilliant display.

The legend of Casanova

Venice has long been synonymous with romance, but to one of the world’s most notorious seducers, Giacomo Casanova, Venice was his playground.

The city, rich and evocative, was called the pleasure capital of Europe in Casanova’s day, and it was here that he was known for enjoying good food, wine and women — not necessarily in that order. Historical records tell us that Casanova was described as “quick-witted with an intense appetite for knowledge and an inquisitive mind.”

Not always a gigolo and gambler, Casanova also pursued careers in medicine, the law, military service and even as a church cleric. Returning broke from his military pursuits, Casanova became a violinist at the San Samuele Theater, demolished in 1894.

The theater where Casanova performed no longer exists, but the gambling room where he toyed with the hearts of women still stands. Today, it looks very much as it did when Casanova plied the art of seduction. Legend says his skills at enticing young, and not so young, women were gleaned from Venice’s erotic poet, Giorgio Baffo.

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