A: Around 1905, real estate promoter Abbott Kinney brought gondolier Giovanni “John” Scarpa from Venice, Italy, to navigate the canals of newly developed Venice, California. A couple of years later, Scarpa moved to Newport Beach, where couples happily paid him for romantic rides through the bay while he sang Italian love songs. Remembering the water carnivals of his homeland, Scarpa enlisted eight rowboats and canoes to join him for a nighttime, lantern-lit boat parade in 1908. It marked the birth of the traditions later known as the Tournament of Lights and the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. A boat parade is still held annually, and you can hire a gondola any time for a romantic evening with your sweetie.