Walk with Your Love as Italy Illuminates the Night

Venice by moonlight, Rome under a canopy of stars. Summer in Italy presents special opportunities for romantic evenings and sightseeing in suggestive settings, without wilting under the sun.

After a successful first summer, Venice again this year will extend visiting hours for the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, on Friday and Saturday evenings until 11 p.m. (with last entrance at 10 p.m.) The palace, steeped in the Venetian Republic’s proud history, is extraordinarily rich in architectural details and artworks.

The lagoon city sees the nighttime hours as a way for Venetians, not just tourists to revel in the palace’s beauties. This is wonderful since working Venetians, many of them employed in the tourism sector, can’t make it to the site before the usual closing hours, of 5:30 p.m. in winter and 7 p.m. in summer.

The palace is a masterpiece of gothic style, grandiose while architecturally pleasing, with one of its wings dating back to 1340. There is a Renaissance wing, where the doge lived, which was rebuilt between 1483 and 1565. The palace was also the site of a prison on the ground floor. The main facade features pinkish Verona marble. The palazzo is now home to superb paintings by Veronese, including his famed ‘’Rape of Europe,’’ and Tintoretto’s “Descent from the cross’’ in the Senate Hall, where the doge and his senators used to hold court.

Rome, which can be beastly hot on summer days, opens up two of its most popular attractions – the Colosseum and the Roman Forum – to visitors in late evening.

This year, starting on April 21, the traditional ‘’birthday’’ of Rome, commemorating the ancient city’s legendary origins, the Forum was again illuminated to the delight of Romans and tourists alike. From sunset to dawn, ancient Rome’s glories can be marveled during a leisurely, and why not, romantic stroll along the broad Imperial Forums Way.
Guided night tours of the Roman Forum are being offered in summer, until Oct. 28, on Friday and Saturday evenings. Tours are given in English (and Italian) to groups of 25 upon reservation and the last 75 minutes. Tours begin at 8 pm., with the last ending at midnight. The tour includes exploration of the wall paintings of the early Christian world, with a tour of the Santa Maria Antiqua church, an ancient basilica at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Also featured on the tour is the Oratory of the 40 Martyrs, with decorative painting dating to the 8th-century on its apse. The site pays tribute to Christian soldiers who were martyred — condemned to die in an icy lake in Armenia — during the persecution under Emperor Diocletian’s reign. Tickets cost 20 euros — who says romantic atmosphere comes cheap? Reservations at www.coopculture.it
Also able to be visited under the moonlight is the Colosseum. These guided tours may not allow you to spy every crack in the time-worn stones in the arena which symbolizes the Eternal City. But the play of shadows when clouds pass in front of the moon are enchanting, and with the night air temperatures traditionally a relief in Rome, you want to linger and drink in the atmosphere, instead of exiting the arena, perhaps to grab a cold drink. You might want to check your calendar to ensure it’s a full moon to maximize the experience.
This year’s moonlight tours called ‘’La Luna sul Colosseo’’ began on March 11 and run through Dec. 30. First entrance is at 8 p.m., last tour begins at 10:50 p.m. During June, July, August and September the night tours are available daily; starting in Fall, the days of the week for these tours are fewer, whittling down to only on Saturday in December. Reservations are required and can be done at www.coopculture.it