Ever since I inter-railed around Europe as a teenager (strapped to a backpack bigger than me) and stopped in Venice for a couple of days in, I've been wanting to return to the floating city. When I was last there I stayed in a 50 bed dorm room, which was a convent-turned-hostel, complete with a curfew set by nuns. This time (thankfully) was quite a different story. Getting invited to Venice to spend a couple of days exploring the city, whilst riding around on a beautiful RIVA boat to celebrate a new collaboration with The Gritti Palace - was one of those 'pinch me' moments, and one I couldn't say no to - I even delayed a much-awaited trip to Morocco.
By boat is the only way to get around Venice (although I'm still amazed that taxis come in the form of speed boats!), so a hotel that has its own private boat, available to guests for hire is genius. And the Gritti Palace, where the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tom Cruise and Scarlet Johansson have stayed over the years would only opt for the very best boat brand to collaborate with, hence RIVA. Off to Venice soon? Scroll down for a little must-do city guide!
RIVA Lounge at the Gritti Palace: now I'm not just saying this because I stayed there, because if you want beautiful views of the Grand Canal, brilliant service and the best Bellinis you've ever tasted, this place should be top of your list!
Harry's Bar: grab a drink in this Venice drinking institution - go for the Bellinis here too if the peaches are in season!
Dinner at Trattoria Antiche Carampane: order the spaghetti vongole, you won't regret it.
Lunch/ snack at All'Arco: located a little off the beaten track, it's a great respite from the Venitian tourist traps - of which there are many.. Order a bottle of Prosecco and their little open sandwiches.
Get a taxi (or the RIVA if you're staying at the Gritti and feeling plush) and ride out to Ristorante Da Celeste for fresh fish and seafood (and more Prosecco!)
Wake up early: explore Venice while everyone is still sleeping. Venice is busy at any time of year, but in summer it gets crazy. You can barely walk down its narrow streets for the throng of tourists, so I went out at 7am before breakfast, which was still not quite early enough (others had the same idea), but I got to see an almost empty Piazza San Marco.
Wander the fresh food market: and watch the gulls steal the fish from the stalls - it's quite a sight to see the giant birds swooping down onto the stalls to catch a quick meal! And the market in itself is perfect photo fodder.
See glass-blowing on the island of Murano: call ARS Cenedese ahead for a little tour and check out their amazing showroom! Everyone from Nicole Kidman to Robin Williams has been there.
I stayed at The Gritti Palace and big thanks to Starwood & The Luxury Collection for making this trip possible.
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