You pause with your sweetheart to take in the view of the water as the afternoon sun dips toward the horizon. A gondola appears in the distance, its gondolier ducking as he maneuvers under an arched white bridge that spans the tranquil canal. Colorful Venetian-style homes line both sides, many with small boats tethered in front in place of cars. Think you’re in Italy? Guess again. You’re at the Venice Canals in Los Angeles, and you’re feeling la dolce vita right where you’re standing.
For an afternoon-to-evening date that’s high in Italian romance but low in intercontinental travel, take your loved one by the hand and visit a quiet slice of Italy in LA. The Venice Canals are the brainchild of LA property developer and conservationist Abbot Kinney, who built the district in 1905 to create a miniature version of the Venice he’d fallen in love with during his European wanderings. While the advent of the automobile sent the area into a downturn and many of its canals were filled in during the following decades, a 1992 renovation restored a four-block section to its former glory, and it remains one of the loveliest places in the city for a romantic stroll.
Start your adventure by parking for free near the intersection of North Venice Boulevard and Canal Street, where flowery pathways and beautiful homes beckon you forward. Stroll along the placid waters, stopping occasionally to–you guessed it–smell the roses blooming in the lush gardens. It’s hard to top the view from one of those arched pedestrian bridges, so take a break from walking and look down at your reflections before remarking on what a cute couple you make. It’s a perfect Instagram moment, but hold on tight to your camera unless you’re looking to take a swim.
As you continue down the sidewalk, imagine what it would be like to live in one of these stunning homes, waking up every day to the sight of swaying palm trees reflected in the rippling water. Once you come back to reality, continue your Italian-themed date at C&O Trattoria, a family-owned restaurant in nearby Venice Beach that boasts killer garlic rolls and linguini with clams that would make a Venetian grandma proud. It’s a fitting end to an idyllic day where Southern California meets Northern Italy, and everything’s beautiful.