From Venice to the Riviera

Life in Italy is a combination of magic and pasta. Join Sarah-Louise and Christopher as they take you on a sumptuous journey through the country to enjoy both.

Overlooking the canal at Aman Grande Canal Venice

Venice

It is safe to say that our entrance into the historic city of Venice was one of the most unique experiences of our lives. A magical place where water outweighs land, you immediately surrender yourself to the sounds, smells and sights of Italy at its most opulent and eccentric.

 

We found ourselves thrown in at the deep end, whisked away in a water taxi, dodging gondolas and tourist ferries, gasping with joy at our surroundings. Venetians own these waters, and we are at their mercy. We set off south along the Grand Canal, making our way to our home for the evening, The Gritti Palace.

 

The Gritti Palace is a place for lovers: lovers of architecture, lovers of antiques, lovers of sublime views, and lovers of unparalleled service. The Guggenheim Suite is opulent with a balcony overlooking the Santa Maria della Salute. We stood on our balcony, sipping rosé and revelling in the glorious views of the Grand Canal; taking in each and every moment. One can only imagine how different, yet similar it must have felt when Ernest Hemingway was nestled up in the exact same spot, pondering life and soaking in Venezia’s charm.

History and legend and art and romance meet and mingle to create that indefinable sorcery of Venice. It is like nothing on earth except a poet’s dream.

As sumptuous and romantic as Venice itself, our second stop was the exquisite Aman Grande Canal Venice. Set in one of the city’s most illustrious residences, the 16th-century Palazzo Papadopoli, the grand baroque building exudes the style and elegance of a bygone era. There is a warm familiarity one experiences when entering an Aman property, each is definitively unique, yet there is a common thread: unparalleled luxury and unrivalled service from the moment you arrive, you feel instantly at home.

 

Eating in Venice is an experience in itself; here are a few of our favourites. Dine by candlelight at Arva in Aman Venice’s majestic ballroom. Pick up a box of fresh Venetian pasta at Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to Go. Jump on a water taxi to the colourful island of Burano and eat the freshest seafood at Gatto Nero.

 

For something special, Da Ivo is the place to go for the finest Italian cuisine, make sure you book far in advance to experience this hidden gem. A trip to Venice isn’t complete without an iced hot chocolate at Caffe Florian. Founded in 1720, it's not only Italy's oldest café, but with its glittering neo-baroque décor, it's undisputedly the most beautiful.

Lounge room of Aman Grande Canal Venice

Christopher and his IWC Big Pilot's Watch
An essential in every gentleman’s collection, the iconic IWC Big Pilot's Watch is a necessity for navigation and the perfect accompaniment for a road trip.

LAKE COMO

Lake Como is timeless, a natural utopia that has shined for centuries in the northern region of Lombardi, Italy. Opulent villas and lakeside estates, rolling vineyards, wisteria vines and alpine peaks line the wishbone-shaped lake. Virtually deserted during the winter, in spring it awakens from its slumber when glamorous crowds begin to descend on the beautiful towns clustered around its centre: Bellagio, Cernobbio, Laglio and Tremezzo.

 

In the little town of Blevio, Castadiva Hotel and Spa is a beautiful property with a rich history and spectacular grounds. Once the home of the Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta, the hotel is named after one of Vincenzo Bellini’s iconic aria from “Norma: Casta Diva”. At its historic heart lies the elegant and opulent 19th-century Villa Roccabruna. A magnificent spiral staircase sits at the centre of the property’s regal hallway and looks out across the shimmering lake below.

 

Perched over the lake in Brienno, head to Crotto dei Platani for a lunch like no other. With incredible views and a romantic garden, the family-run restaurant serves fresh fish and gourmet Italian cuisine. For dinner with a view, Il Gatto Nero in Cernobbio is unrivalled. High up in the mountains, the elegant setting and romantic candlelit ambience mirrors the stunning views and is accompanied by a rich and elaborate menu of the finest Italian cuisine.

When you write the story of two happy lovers, let the story be set on the banks of Lake Como

PORTOFINO

As our long but picturesque drive through the centre of Northern Italy drew to a close, the roads became increasingly narrow, hugging the coastline and winding around quaint villages and pastel coloured buildings. We had arrived in one of the world’s most alluring and iconic destinations, Portofino. There’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, the beautiful scenery and pastel harbour have turned this elegant port into a haven for jet-setters and high-flyers, evidenced by the flotillas of giant yachts usually anchored just outside.

 

For over thirty years, IWC’s classically elegant Portofino collection has captured the laid-back lifestyle of the region and the very essence of understatement and good taste.

 

If you’re going to Portofino, you’re most probably staying at the Belmond Hotel Splendido.

A view overlooking the Portofino harbor

Splendido is a timeless gem set on the side of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean and the marina below. The property is idyllic and steeped in glamour from a bygone era, from the pristine gardens to the royal blue infinity pool that clings to the hillside and the rustic pastel pink walls. Ageless, elegant and luxurious, you can see why Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton returned time and time again to this Italian paradise.

 

Lunch at the Splendido is something everyone should experience at least once. Fresh mozzarella and heritage tomatoes are doused in local olive oil, spaghetti alle vongole is made with clams fresh from the sea and served up with a crisp glass of white and views to die for. For our next stop, we’ll be flying across the globe, stay tuned. 


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Sarah-Louise Marks and Christopher Phelps run the popular travel blog "The Adventures of Us". The London-based couple are sharing their breathtaking escapes on The Journal in a special travel series.