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The Land of Love

Claire Ridley visits Venice to discover how the floating city is one of the most romantic places in the world

Claire Ridley visits Venice to discover how the floating city is one of the most romantic places in the world

The Land of Love: Image 1 With my ancestry being Italian, I jumped at the chance to visit Venice, the capital of northern Italy's Veneto region, to review it as a city break for honeymooners, and I wasn't disappointed. With its colourful ancient buildings and web of waterways, there's something special around every turn.

Located just a short distance from San Marco Square and the Rialto Bridge, the Splendid Venice Starhotels Collezione hotel was to be my home away from home for two nights. This luxurious,165-room property sits right on the Mercerie, the ancient alleyways that make up the main shopping area of this bustling city, and is accessed by watertaxi from Venice Marco Polo Airport. I fell in love at first sight with the pink exterior (my favourite colour!) not to mention the hotel's rooms, including 12 Splendid Heritage Suites and its elegant Presidential Suite, which are the best offerings for honeymooners. These rooms measure 40-square metres (whens pace is at a premium in Venice) with guaranteed privacy and feature sumptuous velvet furnishings and bespoke bathrooms complete with Acqua di Parma amenities. Honeymooners can take advantage of the 24-hour room service so that they don't have to leave the room if they don't want to, plus other bespoke services such as private in-room check-in when booking a suite.

WINING AND DINING
On the ground floor of this charming hotel is the LeMaschere restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It features a retractable glass roof making it the ideal spot for al fresco dining and attracts localsand tourists alike. Serving traditional Italian dishes and seasonal Venetian cuisine, the fresh seafood and local vegetables are a must-try. For a more casual dining experience including afternoon tea, the Lounge Bar features large arched windows looking out on the canal and comfy sofas to watch the gondoliers go by. The cocktail menu is endless with the Italian Bellini and house signature Laguna blend not to be missed. The chic and stylish rooftop bar, known as the Altana, offers a relaxing vibe, with a clear view of the Venice bell towers, and panoramic vistas of this Instagrammer's delight. It's also suitably placed towatch the sun go down.

ROMANTIC MUST-DOS

  • With photo opportunities around every corner, newlyweds should take a stroll around the many bustling stores and boutiques that are clustered in the centre near Rialto market and Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square). I was really impressed with the architecture at the entrance to St Mark's Basilica in this famous public square of Venice, and stood still for a moment in the middle of the crowds to take in all that the heart of this Italian hotspot has to offer.
  • A guided Venice walking tour should be top of your to-do list in the city, capturing the sights of Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the small palazzo known for its multi-arch spiral staircase, and Pontedei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs). A short ferry ride afterwards reveals the romance of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the 118 small islands of Venice.
  • Embarking on a romantic gondolier ridefrom the private water door right outside the hotelon the Rio dei Barattieri was one of my most memorable moments of the trip. It's a calm and serene experience, and a great way to capture that all-important honeymoon selfie. Those wishing to try a one-hour rowing lesson for two to learn this ancient skill can do so by booking it via the hotel's concierge.
  • With this historic city being known for its delicious food, a long lunch at AMO, the new elegant Venetian restaurant designed by Philippe Starck located in luxury lifestyle department store T Fondacodei Tedeschi by DFS shouldn't be missed. Highlights from the menu include steamed, oven-baked and pan-fried pizza, gourmet Italian sandwiches (known as tramezzini) and Venetian tapas (called fried cichetto). Don't forget to visit the rooftop terrace at this venue afterwards to admire the 360-degree view.
  • Honeymooners should also reserve a table for dinner at Quadri, the 18th-century café, bistro and fine dining restaurant in Piazza San Marco. Following a major restoration, the romantic atmosphere here is captured through the glittering chandeliers, the rich fabrics and the magnificent Venetian mirrors. The menu boasts fresh fish from the Rialto market, and the three tasting menus on offer are a great way to experience the various dishes on offer.

BOOK IT Prices at Splendid Venice Starhotels Collezione start from 170 euros in low season for a Superior Room based on two people sharing, www.starhotelscollezione.com/en/our-hotels/splendid-venice-venice

The Land of Love: Image 2 VILLA MICHELANGELOVICENZA STARHOTELSCOLLEZIONE
The second part of my trip involved a night at this four-star hotel nestled in the heart of the picturesque Berici Hills. It's an elegant 18th-century property, located a short distance from Vicenza, a city with UNESCO World Heritage recognition, and provides a quiet, tranquil gateway to the vibrancy of Venice. The 46 rooms and 6 suites feature traditional Venetian floors, exposed beams, high ceilings and pieces of antique furniture in keeping with its authentic Italian style. The Executive Suites are the perfect pick for honeymooners with their marble bathrooms, private balconies and uninterrupted views of the manicured gardens.

WINING AND DINING
The Ristorante La Loggia has been built across four rooms on the ground floor of the hotel with stunning vistas of the Berici Hills magnified through the tall windows. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here, with the American-style buffet breakfast offering a large selection of fresh local fruit, cheeses and homemade pastries that can be enjoyed on the adjoining terrace during the summer months. Dinner sees the finest seasonal products used in local dishes (with the fresh pasta and ravioli tasting like nothing I have sampled before), accompanied by an extensive wine list, with help on pairing them I was spoilt for choice! A long lunch or afternoon tea can also be enjoyed here, with delicious cakes and sandwiches served with the impeccable service which the hotel is well known for.

ROMANTIC MUST-DOS

  • A refreshing dip in the large pool (that can be covered with a retractable enclosure) should be one of the first things that you do after checking in, quickly followed by simply relaxing in the sunshine on the nearby terrace, or enjoying a cocktail at the pool bar.
  • Honeymooners can take a walk around the grounds of the property, admiring the extensive views of the five-hectare park that it's flanked by.
  • Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a game arranged through the hotel at the nearby Colli Berici Golf Club, or the Asiago Golf Club.
  • History lovers should take a tour of a typical Palladian-style villa, with many dotted around the surrounding countryside to choose from, or experience an open-air museum, or visit Marostica, which is crowned with a largeruined castle.
  • Finally, the city of Verona, one of the most romantic in the world featuring Juliet's balcony, where Romeo allegedly declared his eternal love, should be top of any honeymoon hot list.

BOOK IT Prices at Villa Michelangelo Vicenza Starhotels Collezione start from 130 euros in low season, www.starhotelscollezione.com/en/our-hotels/hotel-villa-michelangelo-vicenza