Summer Series

European dining destinations serve up inspiration, romance

Follow your heart — and stomach — to the sources of Western gourmet cuisine. France, Spain and Italy feature legendary landscapes, fairytale cities and sublime menus that are a perfect recipe for romance.

Paris

Put Paris at your feet at Le Jules Verne, with inspired French classics in a five-course meal by Chef Alain Ducasse and a view from atop the Eiffel Tower. At Antoine de Paris, try plump St. Jacques scallops on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Farm-raised beef from Southern France is always on the menu at Chez Boris Saint Honore. Take a romantic stroll down Rue Mouffetard, one of the city's oldest avenues and home to streetside markets featuring the freshest meats and produce. If sights and smells serve as inspiration, consider an afternoon cooking class under chef Paule Caillat, where students purchase fresh ingredients and return to a Paris flat to cook and eat together.

Barcelona

Awaken your passion with the tastes of Catalonia, which rely heavily on the sun-kissed fruits and vegetables of the region. Delights in this Mediterranean city include fresh-caught seafood and cool sangria. Share maritime moments from 250 feet above the harbor at Torre d'Alta Mar, featuring a waterfront view and serving Catalan tomato bread stuffed with artichokes, asparagus and ham. At Set Portes, sup on rustic treats like monkfish stew with crayfish and potatoes — little has changed since it opened in 1836. Share what many say is Barcelona's best salt cod at Els Pescadors.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Find paradise at the bar in La Sirenuse Hotel and share champagne and fresh oysters while overlooking the Mediterranean in Positano. Live mandolin music melts your heart while traditional fare with a modern accent — such as zucchini pesto risotto and tuna roe — charms your palate. Kick back over mozzarella baked on lemon leaves and the grilled catch of the day at shabby-chic Da Adolfo on tiny Laurito Beach. Waterfront dining offers fresh seafood delights and authentic Italian cappuccinos. Traditional pasta dishes, including Amalfi calamari, abound at the Marina Grande, where private beach dining is available.

Venice

Channel the passion of legendary hometown lover Casanova at Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco. Established in 1720, it's where modern-day sophisticates follow in his footsteps by leisurely sipping cappuccinos. Experience the romance of waterfront tables along the Grand Canal — the DePisis pairs views of the landmark Basilica La Salute with classic dishes like squid risotto in black ink. L'Alcoua serves favorites fresh from the centuries-old Rialto Market, famed for seasonal fruits and vegetables grown in the Italian countryside. In the evening, share a "spritz" (or any number of Italian wines from the extensive list) at Cantinone gia Schiavi.

-By Barbara Beckley, Brand Publishing Writer

For more great summer travel options, go to latimes.com/summertravelseries.

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