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Romantic Italian Honeymoons
Did you know that Italy is consistently ranked as one of the top ten honeymoon destinations in the world? It is a mecca for art lovers, fashionistas, wine and food enthusiasts, as well as anyone who simply wants to enjoy a romantic honeymoon in one of the most beautiful and welcoming places that can be found anywhere. Let this guide help you in deciding where to go, what to do, and what to see while enjoying a romantic Italian honeymoon that you will never forget.
Timing Is Everything
There are a few general things to know before you leave for Italy. Plan sufficient time to order passports for travel, and decide whether you wish to handle the currency exchange for euros before your trip or at the airport upon arrival. The many charms of Italy make it wildly popular with tourists of all persuasions, not just honeymooners. This means that at certain times, popular attractions can be dreadfully over-crowded.
The high season for tourism in most parts of Italy is May through September, plus the Easter holidays. The most pleasant weather is generally in May, September, and October. During the autumn months, you will not find yourself entirely surrounded by other tourists. It is advisable to avoid a trip to Italy during July or August, when the crowds are unbearable, the weather is hot and sticky, and in Venice the canals actually smell bad! August is when many locals go on vacation, meaning a lot of businesses are closed. Many places will also be closed during the week between Christmas and New Year. If you are getting married in July or August and have your heart set on an Italian honeymoon, you might consider delaying your trip for a few months after the wedding.
Timing is everything when it comes to planning a trip, and there are a few other key things to keep in mind. Many of the museums and other highlights are closed one day a week, usually Mondays or Tuesdays. Be sure to schedule your trip to coincide with the days that your favorite sights will be open to visit. It is possible to order tickets online before your honeymoon for some of the most special attractions, such as the Uffizi museum in Florence. This is a brilliant idea that can save you hours wasted waiting in line. Churches and cathedrals are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, and you should be aware before you go that they may place certain restrictions on visitors. Some may forbid backpacks or cameras, and nearly all will require that guests be dressed respectfully, meaning no bare shoulders, shorts, or short skirts. If you do your research before heading for the airport, you will be able to pack appropriately.
Italian Fashion & Language
Speaking of being appropriate, Italy is rightfully known as one of the most fashionable destinations in the world. Baggy jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts simply will not cut it. Women should plan to wear skirts, dresses, or nice trousers with stylish tops. For men, long pants with "real" shoes are better than shorts and sneakers any day. The locals will recognize you as tourists instantly no matter what you wear, but they will nonetheless appreciate it if you make an effort with your appearance.
Speaking of making an effort, while English is spoken by a fair number of people in the major Italian cities, it is only polite to learn a few basic Italian phrases. You will be well served by knowing grazie (thank you), scusi(excuse me), per favore (please), buongiorno (good day), and dov' è (where is...).
Where To Begin
With the basics out of the way, you can begin the fun of planning your itinerary. Almost every part of Italy has something magical that would make your honeymoon an incredible experience. The Italian people are very warm and welcoming, and they adore romance, so honeymooners are always treated well. The most popular destinations include Rome, Florence, and Venice. These cities are so full of art, history, culture, and cuisine that it would be a crime to go to Italy without taking them in. If time permits, you can also visit some of the other wonderful parts of Italy, such as the breathtaking Tuscan countryside. Italy is not a particularly large country and it can be easy to get around by rail, air, or car, so most honeymooners will want to include at least two or three stops on their tour.
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Rome is home to a staggering number of "can't miss" sites to see. Known as "The Eternal City", the seat of Western Civilization has ruins dating back to antiquity. The city of Rome is over two thousand years old, and it is the third most visited city in the European Union for good reason. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Rome that you will want to return there for your wedding anniversary each year to continue your explorations. No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Colosseum, which was built in 70-80 AD as an amphitheater to hold gladiator fights and other spectacles. Other world renowned ruins include the Forum, the Pantheon, and Circus Maximus.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are another well known Roman location. If you would like a sneak peek before your honeymoon, spend an evening watching the marvelous old film "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn. You may not find a handmade pair of leather sandals for sale on the street for a song, but you will find fabulous upscale shopping in the area around the Spanish Steps. This is a great place to find some special souvenirs and perhaps to treat yourself to a reminder of your honeymoon. Shoppers will find all manner of fine leather goods, ties, stationery, perfume, and fashionable clothing. When shopping in Italy, be careful to keep all of your receipts, as you may be able to apply for a refund of the VAT (value added tax) at the airport before leaving the country.
Art and Architecture
The art and architecture in Rome is magnificent. You and your new spouse will be able to feast your eyes on majestic 17th Century squares, many of which feature mysterious obelisks. There are villas, lush public parks and green spaces, as well as incredible art at every turn. The famous Trevi Fountain is just one of the many remarkable pieces of sculpture to be enjoyed on a Roman honeymoon.
Art lovers from around the globe flock to Vatican City (an independent city-state within Rome) to see the mind blowing paintings and sculptures that live within its borders. How could you possibly go to Rome and not make the trip to see Michelangelo's fresco paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican? St. Peter's Basilica is full to the gills with other remarkable paintings and sculptures by famous artists such as Raphael and Botticelli, and the architecture of the Basilica (which was completed in 1626) is a work of art in and of itself.
When you need a break from visiting historic sites and drinking in world famous works of art, go to a restaurant to sample some of the local cuisine. Italy as a whole is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal, and the city of Rome has some delicious local specialities. Feast on fried artichokes, lamb, pasta, and plenty of vino , before packing your bags and heading for the next destination on your Italian honeymoon, Florence.
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Next Stop, Florence
The city of Florence is located in the region of Tuscany. Florence is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and you will find that you are surrounded by incredible works of art at every turn. The Uffizi museum is an absolute must see. It features the paintings and sculptures that comprise some of the best known works of art ever created. Revel in paintings such as "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli and Titian's "The Venus of Urbino". Not only will you find gallery after gallery of magnificent artworks, but even the ceilings in the hallway feature amazing paintings. A trip to the Uffizi in Florence will be one of the highlights of your honeymoon.
The Magnificent Art of Florence
Because art is an integral part of life in Florence, it can be found throughout the city. One thing that should not be missed is seeing Michelangelo's larger than life sculpture "David" at the Accademia. This is one of those places where no photographs are allowed, but there are some very nice momentos for sale in the gallery's gift shop by which to remember the great artist's masterpiece. Scattered throughout Florence are other smaller galleries and churches which house their own treasures.
Florence is also home to some architectural wonders, such as the Medici's Pitti Palace. After the Palazzo Pitti, pay a visit to the Boboli Gardens. While you are enjoying the architecture of the city, be sure to set aside an afternoon to spend at the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo (usually just called "Il Duomo"). It is a grand and magnificent cathedral that dominates most views of Florence. Marvel at Brunelleschi's dome, study the detail on the sculptural relief "Gates of Paradise" on the East Doors, and simply stare at the gorgeous marble, inlays, and thousands of other details that make "Il Duomo" one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world.
Then it is time to move on to shopping! Florence has spectacular shops, featuring everything from local leather goods to marbled paper to couture fashions from the likes of Prada, Gucci, and Roberto Cavalli. Any woman who loves shoes simply must pay a visit to the flagship Ferragamo store. It is even possible to schedule a viewing of their private shoe museum! This would be a great place to pick up another little souvenir from your honeymoon, perhaps a pair of Ferragamo pumps for the Mrs. and a handsomely patterned silk tie for the Mr.
There is one more key stop on your trip to Florence, and that is the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio (which means "old bridge") dates back to 1345. It spans the River Arno, and was one of a very few Florentine bridges which were not destroyed during WWII. The bridge is crowded with tiny shoebox shops filled with glittering new and antique jewelry. Italy is known for its fine gold jewelry, and this is a great place to see a whole lot of it in a very small area. New husbands, definitely plan to pick up a sentimental gift for your new wife at one of the little jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio. You can look for a piece to complement her wedding jewelry set, select a gold charm, or simply keep your eye out for a unique necklace or pair of earrings that she will enjoy.
Food of Florence
The food of Florence and of Tuscany in general tends to be simple and hearty "peasant" food. What this means to honeymooners is that every meal will be a taste of Heaven! The area is famous for its olive oil, truffles, porcini mushrooms, roasted meats and salami, and delicious sheep's milk cheeses. The Tuscan countryside has some of the best vineyards you will find anywhere. The specialty of the region is Chianti Classico, and if you are looking to take a break from sightseeing in the cities, a side trip to a vineyard would be a romantic adventure. While touring the Tuscan countryside, you can also pay visits to beautiful towns like Sienna and Pisa (of leaning tower fame).
Although summer is the most crowded time to visit Italy, should you happen to be a June bride, there are several very special events that will be taking place in Florence around the time of your honeymoon. May to early June brings the delightful Maggio Musicale, which is a major arts festival. In late June, there is the feast of John the Baptist, who is the patron saint of Florence. On June 24th, there are fireworks and other festivities that would make your trip even more fun and memorable.
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Last But Not Least, Venice
Speaking of special events, the unique city of Venice has several of its own. In odd numbered years, the city plays host to a spectacular art festival, the Venice Biennale. The dates for 2009 are June 7th through November 22nd, so there is still time for this year's newlyweds to make the trip. Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is an international event with permanent pavilions for many different countries. Although when one thinks of Italian art, it is the Renaissance that first springs to mind, the Venice Biennale focuses on the best of contemporary art from around the globe. Modern art lovers can also get their fill by visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice (yes, the Guggenheim family with the museum in New York), which houses her personal collection of modern artwork.
More Festivals in Venice
There are several other noteworthy festivals in Venice. In early to mid September, there is the annual Venice Film Festival, for which tickets and details can be found online before planning your honeymoon. Most famous of all, though, is the grand Carnival of Venice, which takes place every year and runs from two weeks before Ash Wednesday until Shrove Tuesday. This is a wild and raucous good time, and colorfully costumed people can be seen everywhere. It is almost like if you took the spirit of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and expanded it to last for three straight weeks. Be aware that Carnival does draw hundreds of thousands of revelers, and so if you are looking for a relaxed honeymoon trip, this would actually be the time to avoid visiting Venice.
The Grand Canal
There is no doubt that the city of Venice, which is actually built over 118 small islands on a lagoon, is one of the most romantic destinations in all the world. There is nothing quite like the experience of riding in a gondola in the Grand Canal while watching the gorgeous old buildings drift by on either side. The Grand Canal is lined with spectacular churches, like the Santa Maria della Salute, as well as breathtaking old homes and hotels. The Grand Canal is one of 177 canals in Venice that you can have fun exploring. The gondola is the iconic way to travel, although it is costly, and not the way that the locals get around. After you treat yourself to a romantic gondola ride, spend the rest of your time in Venice getting around by vaperetto (water buses) or water taxi.
Hidden Gems Of Venice
Venice is also a very walkable city, as there is no car traffic permitted. Exploring Venice by foot is ideal, because there is something beautiful to discover at every turn. One minute you will find yourselves strolling down a narrow street, and the next you will discover a sunny square. The architecture is amazing, and there are hidden gems all over the city; even the doors of the buildings are beautiful. Be sure to bring some waterproof footwear on your honeymoon, in case you happen to be in Venice during a time of high water (low level floods are commonplace in the watery city).
Piazza San Marco
Other than the canals and gondolas, the most famous sight in Venice is the Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark's square. The large open piazza is filled with pigeons and entertainers and visitors sipping espresso, just as you have seen in the movies. While there, pay a visit to the remarkable Basilica di San Marco, which is a magnificent gold and mosiac embellished church. Admission to the Basilica is free, but if you plan to tour many of the grand old churches of Venice, it can be a good idea to obtain a pass that grants you entry to all of the churches which do charge fees.
The Venice Menu
While in Venice, be sure to pay a visit to the famous Harry's Bar, at which the Bellini was invented. It is fun to go there and sip one of the signature peach nectar and Prosecco cocktails, although the prices are so high at Harry's Bar that you will probably not want to stay for a meal. Speaking of food, being surrounded by water, Venice is a terrific place to try some great seafood. The fresh seafood risotto is a traditional Venetian dish that everyone will enjoy. And of course, being in Italy, you will still find many enjoyable wines on the menu.
If your honeymoon will take place in the winter months, you will be lucky to have access to one of the most spectacular events in Venice, which is the opera season at La Fenice. The grand old opera house is a symbol of pride to Venetians. Lore has it that after it was destroyed by a fire, even the city's prostitutes donated money to help restore La Fenice to its former glory. (For a fascinating account on the rebuilding of La Fenice, read "The City of Falling Angels" by John Berendt.) This is one of the most famous opera houses in all of Europe, and even if you are not an opera lover, it is worth attending just for the experience. People dress to the nines for the Venetian opera, so plan to bring along formal attire and make your visit to La Fenice one of the most special evenings of your honeymoon.
La Dolce Vita
There is just so much to see and do in Italy that it is no wonder that it is a favorite destination for honeymooners. The pace of life is relaxed, meals are to be lingered over, and you will be surrounded by glorious art and architecture on all sides. Italy is the perfect place for newlyweds to vacation and experience la dolce vita ("the sweet life"). Be warned though: you are likely to fall in love with Italy and to yearn to return almost as soon as you arrive home from your honeymoon!