The Doge's Palace provides the inspiration behind an enthralling evening in Venice.
In Venice, both romance and logistics are all over the map and, unsurprisingly, we had a few ups and downs. We did some things right (like splurging on Wi-Fi so we'd never get lost) and we did some things wrong (I'm looking at you, bed bug infested guest house), and then there were some mixed moments (like choosing a vaporetto over a gondola) but our best decision of all was to spend our date night not with each other, but instead with the Doge.
Exactly who is the Doge? Why, only the most important person in all of Venice -or, at least he was several hundred years ago. Dozens of Doges have left an indelible mark on the city since 728 A.D. and it seemed only fitting that their collective, compelling spirit accompany us for an intimate evening in the city.
Every date begins with a long, romantic stroll.
And while the cobblestones were extra slippery and the colors far less bright, we discovered that this was THE time to visit the Square. It was like thousands of people parted ways to let us through. Bring on the rain!
Coffee for two?
Um, that's a price too steep for the Doge himself! Is Venice really that grandiose?
In Europe, "service" refers to the civilized practice of sitting at a sidewalk table, luxuriating in the world's best people watching, and having your espresso and biscotti (Served on real dishes! With actual fresh cream!) brought out to you, to be enjoyed at a leisurely, lovely pace. And on St. Mark's Square, the *service* can be astonishingly high as many cafes feature live orchestras for your enjoyment.
For some people, it's worth it, no matter the cost. This is VENICE. Heck, this is COFFEE! You might have just enjoyed the most elegant, memorable coffee of your life, at one of the world's oldest and more glamorous cafes.
Or maybe you just got scammed at a tourist trap. Either way, you CAN have cheap (ish) coffee at St Mark's - one even a Doge would approve of.
Cheap coffee at St Mark's Square is still a rich travel memory.
It's ALWAYS cheaper to order and drink your coffee at the counter but Caffe Lavena is truly a great deal. After all, it may be date night with the Doge, but sadly you're the one who's going to pay!
Doge, Duke, Wheeler and Dealer
It comes as no surprise that theDoge's Palace, on the corner of the Square, is a center of absolute splendor, from gold embossed ceilings to massive canvases by Titian. I'll say this for the Doge - he sure does know how to make an impression!
Our "Alone in St Mark's and Doge's Palace Tour" was absolutely the right call for me. Learning about Venice's history, politics, and social structures was an invaluable introduction to the city. Our cheerful, well informed guide kept us from getting lost and kept us grounded, explaining the origins of an exquisite piece of art one moment and letting us in on a little historic municipal gossip the next. And as our total visit to Venice was less than 24 hours, the timing of the tour worked perfectly with our tight schedule.
A view to make you sigh.
Hey, I never said the Doge was a nice guy! Yes, there were prisons in the Palace, both in the flooded basements and the boiling hot rafters. Turns out not all of Venice is romantic. The Doge's Palace was a working political and civic center and it's easy to forget all the unpleasant, mundane, and routine tasks that took place there - including sentencing criminals - all in the name of keeping Venice a well run, orderly city. (On second thought, I can find some romance there. We all know how I feel about lists!)
Stepping back into the sunshine.
A saintly end to the day.
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
Getting Around Venice by Boat: Vaporetto versus Gondola
Roman Recipes: Culinary Advice from Nonna
The Lute, The Lovers, and The Lasagna: Discovering Rome For The First Time.
PS: Looking for food recommendations in Venice? My friends Justin and Lauren have a guide to vegan food in Venice (that all food lovers will enjoy). My friend Suedid a great piece about 'happy hour' in Venice and an epic quest to find an incredible hidden bar. Let me know if you try any of the restaurants on their lists!
We received our complimentary media passes for our tour. All research, writing, and reviews are our own.