Gondola Servizio, Oakland

I’ve dreamed of cruising on a romantic Venetian gondola and being serenaded with Italian love songs.

I didn’t have to travel any further than Lake Merritt in Oakland. The proprietors of Gondola Servizio, 568 Bellevue Avenue in Oakland, told me this is the most authentic gondola experience outside of Venice. Their gondolas are handcrafted in Venice.

The oldest bird sanctuary in the United States, Lake Merritt is home to egrets, geese, mallards and a variety of migratory birds.

So, without a flight to Europe, I got to toast my sweetie as we left the dock, snuggle close and listen as our gondolier filled the evening with strains of Santa Lucia in his rich baritone voice. We watched the sun set and the city lights flicker on as we glided across the water.

Owners April and Angelino met on April’s first ride with the handsome gondolier. Angelino sang softly to her, and told her it was a tradition to kiss the gondolier under a bridge. He later admitted he made up the kissing part. They now enjoy bringing a little Venetian romance to their guests.

Thirty-minute rides are $45 per couple.

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