Venice: the built up yet exquisite city of marble palaces and basilicas resting on the surface of the Adriatic sea.
There’s history every which was you turn. Whether it be the absurdly priced gondolas weaving between buildings, an espresso facing the Palazzo Ducale in the Piazza San Marco, or the silent monastery where monks still dwell.
It’s all of this, as well as the tales of times past etched into every wall, that has drawn me back to the floating city time and time again. Five times to be exact.
In a classic case of naivete, I assumed I’d pretty much seen it all, despite the fact there are 118 islands that form the Italian tapestry of Venice.
But, my most recent visit proved that assumption wrong, as I set foot on the private island of Isola delle Rose.
Not only is it adored by A-list celebs – none of whom I am allowed to disclose but all of whom I am certain will be familiar to you – but it is barely a complimentary 15-minute shuttle service from the hub of central Venice.
Alternatively, you can have yourself a James Bond moment and opt for a private water taxi, complete with polished wood and cream leather seats.
The island’s only accommodation is five-star luxury 40-acre resort, the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, which sits nestled amongst olive groves and gardens.
It is the ultimate retreat, offering the chance to rest and recuperate before heading out to cruise down the grand canal emulating the glamour of Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale.
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But, if the idea of being somewhat isolated appeals more to those in the public eye than to you, don’t shrug off the JW Marriott just yet.
The private oasis offers a stunning church, three pools, and a heavenly spa complete with steam rooms, saunas, facials and massages.
I highly recommend the spa by night, which will leave you feeling blissful and relaxed after a long day of weaving between glass blowers and Venetian mask vendors.
But, it’s the luxury dining experience at Agli Amici Dopolavoro which draws in not just tourists but locals too from all over the islands.
Under the watchful eye of Emanuele and Michela Scarello, who already have two Michelin stars to their name, the two menus (a fish menu and plant menu) are inspired by the home grown vegetable garden on the island and the fresh fish caught nearby.
And let me tell you, it was the best meal I have ever eaten – and I don’t say that lightly.
There were stunning aperitifs with anchovies; my first and deliciously prepared oyster; a mouth-watering jellyfish; a rose risotto which smelled like an English garden and glazed tuna.
Transitioning from savoury to sweet, I delicately devoured a wasabi sorbet palette cleanser and white chocolate soil desert, alongside delicious lollies and an actual rose petal.
The eleven (!) courses, served alongside a tableside mixologist’s smoky Negroni and blinding wine pairings, made for four hours of the most incredible food and service I’ve ever experienced.
One of the fundamental reasons we all adore Italy is because of its cuisine – risotto, eggplant parmesan, pasta, tiramisu, – the list is endless.
They just don’t do it the same back home, so why not try one of the resort’s authentic Italian cooking classes, where you can opt to cook one of your favourite dishes? You’ll learn the traditional Italian method and have one-on-one guidance.
I made a classic risotto and ate it alongside a steady intake of bubbly. *Chef’s kiss*
If you get tired of island life, the shuttle is ready and waiting so you can explore the mainland.
Lunch at Sagra Rooftop was brilliant, with a simple bowl of gluten-free pasta Pomodoro filling a boot-shaped hole in my stomach before I went to lounge by the rooftop pool with panoramic views of Venice.
While food is my primary focus on holiday, culture and history are a very close second – after all, to truly fall in love with the city you have to get to know it intimately.
Now, I will preface this by saying I actually fear walking tours. You’ve got a huge group of babbling tourists blocking pathways and stopping suddenly to take selfies while a group leader waves an absurdly fluorescent umbrella at the front to crave a destructive path through a stunning maze of buildings.
But thanks to the hotel’s partner company ShoMeVenice I had a personal guide to show my girls and I the less cliché and more authentic secrets of Venice.
Our exceptional guide Matteo walked us around quiet streets sharing snippets of unknown history as well as revealing his best eats and hidden photo spots.
His top tips? For the best, most authentic pasta and exceptional gluten-free menu you will find Ostaria Antico Dolo nestled just near the Ponte di Rialto.
Meanwhile El Magazen offers delicious food but also Instagrammable tables by glass doors which open onto the canal, while Suso will give you the most delicious scoop of ice cream you’ll ever eat.
If you’re looking for a romantic spot, Taverna al Remer will exceed all your expectations and offers delicious wines. After your meal you can pop outside onto the hidden jetty and get a gorgeous undisrupted view of the Rialto bridge.
Of course, you can’t go to Venice without hopping on a gondola – just make sure that you pay no more than 80 euros and give the money at the end to avoid the 30 minute journey being cut short. You want to get your money’s worth.
Sigh, take me back. I want to do it all again.
Staying at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa:
Flights from London to Venice start at just £27 or if you are taking the train from another Italian city the tickets are as little as £10.
Room rates at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa start from £470 per night which includes breakfast.
The shuttle to and from the island during your stay is free but the initial taxi to the hotel is £83 from the station, while the taxi from Marco Polo airport is £137 – both prices are dependent on the number of passengers and the amount of luggage.
Three hours spa access is £60 per person for all guests – internal and external – and treatments are not included.
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