Venice

There is something very special about Venice. Perhaps it is the fragility of the place as you watch the wash of the boats erode the lower levels of once magnificent houses. Perhaps it is the people and their pride in the region. It is easy to be passionate about this city. Perhaps it is the food and social atmosphere. Venice just has that something hard to define but extremely magical.

We stayed at the Belmond Cipriani. Just over the water from the main square. All those photos you see of George Clooney travelling around Venice seem a little closer to reality as you fly through the water in a stunning old wooden boat, past gondolas and happy tourists.

The space that you get at the Cipriani is wonderful with pretty gardens and a huge swimming pool. The calm and quiet is a welcome relief from the busy main areas and in the summer I’d say is a must.

The properties in the main areas like the Londra Palace or Danieli are very special too and certainly in winter lovely to be right there and in the town but if you can, I’d suggest getting away when it is warm.

We experienced two different ends of the spectrum in terms of tourism in Venice. First we visited Harry’s Bar, which is probably on 99% of visitor’s schedules. It is a tiny place with almost as many gruff white-gloved staff as clients and maybe it was the time we went but it certainly felt like the magic of yesteryear had waned. Then we were whisked off to the only vineyard in Venice where they produce a lovely white wine called Orto. They age their magnums down in the lagoon and deposit them secretly in the middle of the night so no one knows where they are. This was a real highlight of our trip and certainly something I’ll be suggesting to my clients.

The food in Venice was wonderful, from the relaxed Cips Club to a lovely local trattoria and the smart restaurant at the Londra palace. It is easy to while away many days people watching from the stunning terraces.

My last thought is back to the Cipriani. With a hotel this smart my concern would be that it could feel stuffy. As you are met from the dock by the enormous cheeky smiles of the concierge and the manager, who is clearly very proud of his team, you immediately get a sense of charm and warmth that make this place special beyond bricks and mortar. Nothing is too much trouble and the staff exudes that same magic I felt about Venice itself.