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Accommodation : Hotels

Ever since I knew it was a favourite of the late Michael Winner and the location for George Clooney’s recent marriage, I’ve wanted to experience the Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice. Nestled on the tip of Giudecca Island, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani is just 40 minutes by water taxi from Venice airport and a short boat ride across the water from St Mark’s Square. But for me, Venice was largely inconsequential to my stay, once I’d stepped inside this glamorous Narnia and sampled its stunning rooms, exquisite gardens and perfect pool – I had no intention of leaving it’s perimeter. This is an exclusive hideaway under the Mediteranean sunshine, that also happens to enjoy dreamy views across Venice.

The Belmond Hotel Cipriani Shuttle
It’s not that I go out of my way to avoid the sights of Venice, a quick trip across the water in the stylish Belmond Hotel Cipriani shuttle, (complete with its Top Gun style driver in his Raybans and white Navy inspired suit), is certainly not to be missed. However the maze of iffy scented canals, tiny passageways, pushy selfie stick vendors, stifling heat and the crazy kamikaze pigeons in St Marks Square can all be hard to bear for prolonged periods. So it was a relief when the hotel’s shiny mahogany motor boat picked us up from the Hotel’s jetty just off St Marks Square, whisking us to the gated solace of the hotel. You can request this complimentary pickup at absolutely any time of the day or night by just picking up the phone on the jetty, a stylish way to escape the madness that is Venice.

Pool
A highlight of the hotel is of course the pool. It is huge, surrounded by gardens and a bar & restaurant that’s open during the day and again later in the evening. The pool area itself is under the command of a lovely lady who will do her best to find you an ideal spot to while away your day poolside. Loungers are arranged by deck boys who will set up your sun bed with just the right amount of shade and provide as many Evian spritzers as you can use. Other than the size of this salt water pool, what was noteworthy was the space around it. There were plenty of loungers available and you could always find a little bit of peace and quiet if you wished.

Gardens
The gardens at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani are beautiful. You can stroll underneath archways of roses and sweet-smelling white flowers, find a place on the lawns to laze, or stroll through the kitchen garden. Tennis players can play a game or two on the secluded clay court whereas parents can shuffle children off to the kids club and enjoy the Spa and Wellness centre. There’s wildlife too, the garden being home a beautiful rabbit who helps the robot lawnmower keep the grass tended and a chicken and some friendly ducks too. It was fun at dusk to sit and watch them all go about their business.

Room
We choose the Junior Suite Pool room, (around 2,500€ per night in season), which was ideal for our little boy as it opened up to a patio that backed straight onto our reserved loungers at the pool. Meaning we could go for a dip without the indecency of having to trawl along corridors and down lifts in dressing gowns. The room was the epitome of classic elegance adorned with hand crafted Murano Glass features, including a handsome blue chandelier which looked somewhat like an octopus. The marble floors were softened with turkish silk rugs and the bathroom was large, with a huge walk in shower and a double basin sporting lovely smelling designer Hermes amenities. The whole room felt fresh, light and airy, a pleasure to call home for the duration of our stay.

Bar
Once the sun started to drop the majority of residents at the pool bar ambled over to the main bar to continue their Bellinis. This bar is where we spent our evenings. I can’t think of a more romantic setting than being served drinks overlooking the Venetian lagoon, with the piano playing in the background as the pink sky turned to purple. The constant flow of boats chugging up and down the waterway, in front of the bar and restaurant area is something I’d never tire of watching. In fact, while my husband and I munched on the generous bar nibbles, (fresh olives, almonds and amuse bouches), we plotted ways to extend our stay at this gorgeous hotel while our son tried to balance on the waterside railings. Unfortunately we both concluded that however long you prolonged your visit to the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, you would always be heartbroken when you had to leave.

Restaurant
On our last night we tried the Oro restaurant home to the Michelin starred chef Davide Bisetto. Sitting at a table on the water’s edge, the setting could not have been more perfect. Many of the diners were from the hotel, but some had come across on the Belmond Hotel Cipriani shuttle boat for the experience. We knew this in part because as the shuttle pulled in we watched visitors slowly amble up the path to the restaurant, but also because the size and friendliness of the hotel meant we started to recognise and be greeted the other inhabitants, faces at the bar became familiar and welcoming. We befriended one particularly nice couple, who’s dog having braved the journey from the US without his masters was enjoying the specially crafted pets menu – even your pet can enjoy the perfect holiday here! The food at Oro was interesting, unexpected and beautiful. At least it was until the light disappeared so we had to finish eating by candle light, which was hugely romantic but made reading the dessert menu virtually impossible. If you have the same problem on your visit, just ask for the Tiramisu, it’s the nicest Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted.

Breakfast
Breakfast was also located at the Oro restaurant with the same mesmorizing views. The staff will share their local stories with you over breakfast – I learned that gondolas get towed in and out of Venice for repairs by barges, that the lagoon is so shallow that at times the centre becomes a massive mud flat and that lost dolphins have very occasionally found their way into the lagoon. The choice at breakfast was extensive and beautiful quality, lovely muesli, cheeses, cold meats, fresh breads and pastries, piles of fruit and eggs however you liked them.

Perfection?
On our last day, we had some hours to waste following checkout and found Michael Winner’s bench in the main garden, where we sat in the dappled sunlight pondering the unfairness that such a charismatic gent with impeccable taste had to leave this mortal coil early. It’s very easy understand why he loved the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, our stay was superb but we inevitably had to deal with the sadness of leaving our Narnia with its wonderful characters, fantastic views and the most relaxing pool. I miss the toll of the church bells, the splish splosh of the lagoon water and the swimmers powering up and down the pool. I miss wandering under rose laden archways and watching the lizards scoot into the undergrowth. I miss the joy of waking up and knowing all you have to do that day is amble over to the pool to take a cooling dip and enjoy endless refreshments. As soon as I got home I started to plan my return to this island paradise.

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