As part of our ‘Ultimate Ship Visit’, we got to spend some time in and around Venice, seeing some of the lovely hotels, sampling the local restaurants and taking in everything the city has to offer. As we travelled in October, the weather could best be described as ‘mixed’, but still a good temperature for a city break in the sense that when the sun was out, you could feel it. However, note high tides, and potential flooding (St. Marks Square was flooded the whole time we were there, which does cause quite a bit of congestion in the area).
For the three days we were in Venice, I was staying at the Danieli – one of Venice’s most iconic hotels. Right on the waterfront next to the Doge’s Palace (Dukes Palace) and St Marks Square – prime position for seeing everything you would want to see in the city. For James Bond fans, the hotel was used in the filming of Moonraker, in which then Bond Roger Moore investigated a Venetian glass manufacturer. The entrance and lobby of the hotel are a tourist attraction in themselves (in fact, some people were not being let in!), and you can see why with such a grand space and ornate ceiling.
The hotel is spread over three ‘palaces’, all dating from different eras. The oldest, which houses the reception and some of the most luxurious suites dates back to the 14th century. The second. Casa Nuova was built in the 19th century and is currently under renovation before the hotel’s management transitions over to Four Seasons in 2025. The final part is the Excelsior building (see room below for an example), which is the most modern and was opened in the 50’s, and also houses the lovely rooftop restaurant. Although each building has its own character, they each exude grandeur.
Ca di Dio
Some of the others in our group were staying at the Ca’ di Dio, just a little further up the passageway, but still offering lagoon views. Being that little bit further away from St Marks Square (and noted by the hotel themselves as being in a more residential area), it does feel a lot more calmer, especially during the day without the crowds filing past. Although not one of the flagship hotels in Venice, it’s a really interesting option if you want to have a more modern hotel, but still have the iconic views over the lagoon.
The hotel itself is based around a converted church, which is now the lobby area. There is a nice breakfast room behind, as well as a small separate restaurant – and there is an internal courtyard which offers additional space when the weather is nice. The rooms are really well appointed, although not in the traditional Venetian style, they have a more rustic appearance with all the modern amenities you would expect.
As part of the trip, we also got to spend some time and have lunch at the world-famous Belmond Cipriani, just a few minutes away from St Marks Square by boat. I didn’t get any photos of that experience, because it was raining heavily at the time (a hallmark of the trip), but you arrive on a small jetty in front of the entrance to the hotel. Instantly you get the feeling of style and sophistication, just from the architecture of the building which wouldn’t look out of place in the Italian Lakes. The hotel is make of various different buildings it has acquired over time, some with ‘the view’ looking the opposite way towards St Marks Square. Additionally, they have the most amazing entertainment space – used for weddings and special occasions next door to their Cips restaurant. They also have a large outdoor swimming pool, again great for the summer, and a number of different eating options.
For many, this is one of the bucket list destinations, and it’s not too far to get to – just under two hours from London. Yes, there are the iconic images of St Marks Square or the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal or the Doge’s Palace – but there is a whole different side to the city if you look closely enough. Having a wonder around on the last morning, I stumbled upon what looked like the world’s most ornate hospital, initially confusing it for a church (although that’s not difficult to do in Venice), and an interesting bookshop, labelled a ‘library’ which offered lovely views over the canals.
Although going in October you avoid the heat of the summer (and potential smell issues), it is a time when Venice is prone to flooding. We did witness very small issues throughout the city where high tide meant that some parts of it were being flooded, and some of St Marks Square was underwater the whole time. It’s something worth remembering, and I would highly suggest taking wellies if we know that the water level is going to be high or there has been a lot of rainfall recently. With people being forced to walk along specially created bridges in the busiest areas, it does create quite a bit of congestion.