Last weekend saw me visit Italy for the very first time. I’m not quite sure how I’d never been there before, but rest assured there is now an Italian road-trip planned for the very near future. My ever generous and kind Dickie had planned the trip single handedly to celebrate my birthday and so we found ourselves on Italian shores to visit the world’s most romantic city, Venice.
We stayed just off of the mainland of Venice in the Hilton Milino Stucky which is a 5* hotel and is really comfortable. Whilst grabbing the complimentary water taxi can be somewhat of a pain (sometimes only running every hour and seating fewer than 40 guests), we found it quite nice to escape some of the hustle and bustle of the main city. As a fan of boutique hotels, I was unsure of what we could expect from a Hilton, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it housed in a restored mill with a gorgeous rooftop bar and pool.
The Skyline Bar provides you with one of the best opportunities to watch the sun set on the city and offers gorgeous cocktails. If you’re a fan of Espresso Martinis, be sure to order one here – they’re delish!
Friday saw us hitting the winding streets of Venice to take in some of the sights. Whilst completely packed with tourists, you can’t help but we overwhelmed by the beauty of the city. Every corner that you turn offers another Instagram perfect opportunity! Be sure to take your camera and a fully charged battery.
After wandering the streets and browsing the multiple designer boutiques, we treated ourselves to a Gondola ride around the city. Not cheap at €120 for an average ride, it’s worth every penny, giving you a completely different perspective on the city. The tour guides provide you with snippets of information about the sights that you’ll take in and you’ll find it helps you to grasp how the winding streets all connect together. Be smart and buy an Italian beer to take with you for the ride, it can be quite hot!
On Saturday after a relaxing day making the most of the sunshine, we headed to Harry’s Bar to celebrate my birthday. As luck would have it, the restaurant is located just a few hundred feet from the hotel and offers a gorgeous view across the river of Venice.
For those of you who aren’t accustomed to Harry’s, this is where the Bellini was invented. The restaurant has maintained the impeccable service, food and charm that you might have expected some 50 years ago and it’s an experience not to be missed. I enjoyed the fresh pasta with pesto, quite possibly the best pasta that I’ve ever had before over indulging in lemon tart. Whether you’re a dessert person or not, you HAVE to experience one here, they are incredible. I genuinely think that this was one of my favourite parts of our trip.
If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across a little hole in the wall serving wine and snacks. These are often tucked down unsuspecting, quiet streets and are where the locals drink. If you find one, be sure to stop – they’ll offer much greater delights than many of the tourist restaurants offer. We tended to avoid the main strips where possible – finding much better food in the smaller restaurants and at a fraction of the price.
Randomly, one of my best memories was made whilst we stood outside in the rain late one evening watching a thunderstorm crack overhead. We witnessed the whole of Venice light up with each flash of lightning, a sight that I’ll never forget.
Dickie had arranged a private water taxi to take us to and from the airport and I’d definitely recommend it. There is a chauffer waiting for you in the airport and it’s the fastest and most convenient way to get to and from your accommodation.
I’d heard many rumours that Venice could be a bit smelly during the summer months. Having been in mid August I can hand on heart say that I never experienced it once. The whole city was incredibly clean and we felt really safe throughout.
If you’re a coffee fan like myself, you’ll no doubt want to try the Italian coffee as soon as you arrive. Be sure to drink it like the locals and order yourself an Espresso so that you can experience the true quality of the coffee. It’s a great pick me up at the end of a meal… (leaving plenty more room for good wine and Prosecco).
If you’re looking for drinks with a view, you can’t go far wrong with paying a visit to Naranzaria which offers stunning views of the Grand Canal and is tucked away in the arches of the popular nightlife area of Campo San Giacomo. Alternatively, pay a visit to Osteria Bancogiro which is run by friends who are passionate about food and wine. All ingredients are locally sourced and the food is superb, or simply grab a drink here and take it down to sit on the bank looking out onto the canal. Perfect.
The food that we experienced in Venice was incredible – by far the best food that I’ve ever had. The pasta is fresh and uncomplicated, satisfying you without over-filling you… and then of course there’s the Gellatto! We discovered a little restaurant which was down one of the side alleys, called Ristorante Da Raffaele which offered delicious pasta. My favourite was the linguine with olive oil and chilli.
I’d definitely visit Venice again. 3 days was a nice length of time for a long weekend but if we had longer, I’d love to experience some of the small surrounding islands.