Embraceable Madison

Is Madison a city of love?

The picture of Nancy I keep in my office is of her in St. Mark’s Square, Venice. For me, Venice is the most romantic city in the world and being there with Nancy is the most romantic thing I can think of. That’s where my mind goes when I need to slow it down a bit, think about what’s important and get my heart a-fluttering. Works every time.

So I must admit I was thrown just a bit by the notion of considering “Romantic Madison.” My love for this city is second to none. But is this a “city of love?” Nancy and I met here, romanced here, wed here and stayed here. But objectively, is Madison really a romantic city? Ah, romance—one of its greatest charms is objectivity has absolutely nothing to do with it. The places of our most romantic dreams might run the gamut from Paris to Niagara Falls, Times Square to Cozumel, and who is to argue with lovers who find any on the list leaving them a little short of breath. Who is to say what moves the heart? And if we were to say it we’d find Madison has it as much or more than anywhere.

We certainly have all the scenic beauty, enchanting vistas, soul-stirring arts and culture, seductive little retreats and culinary pleasures a pair of hearts might desire. In fact if I log into my inner YouTube of romantic scenes in my head I realize there are too many to mention, from that perfect little spot along the Lakeshore Path to the hands-holding impossibility of the counter-clockwise stroll around the Farmers’ Market. Romance is in the eye—and heart—of the romantic and it’s clear that Madisonians, and a whole lot of non-Madisonians, find it right here.

And at the risk of instigating a very un-Valentines Day rant about the Edgewater Hotel proposal debate, the romance in this town is not limited to its “big city living in a small town” feel. (Though do think for a minute of the love to be fallen into atop the new Edgewater in the decades to come.) No, I would argue the zing of Madison’s strings are the people who live here. We’re a romantic bunch. We’re passionate about our neighborhoods (and our neighbors), our lakes, parks and paths, our politics, our plows (snow variety especially) and our pleasures. We care about this place. A lot. It’s romantic, isn’t it?

In fact, we have such an abundance of romance we can share some with Chicago. How many Flatlanders are going to nestle in to a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner in a wonderful Chicago restaurant and wax poetically about the flavors of the ingredients in their memorable meals—ingredients from Wisconsin? (From right here in Dane County and surroundings.) As you’ll learn in Mary Bergin’s terrific accounting of the trip from Wisconsin farm to Chicagoland table as well as Katie Vaughn’s travel column, if indeed the love you give is equal to the love you take we’ve got the most romantic farmers in the world, too.

So we endorse the occasional trip to Chicago for a taste of the big-city romance since we know where some of that taste is coming from. But otherwise you’re just as romantic grabbing your sweetheart and heading down to State Street. If you stand in just the right place on Library Mall, face north, squint just a little, and ignore the snow, you could swear you were in Venice.

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