Two Venice Hotels and a Special Dining Experience

On a trip to Venice last year to attend the Venice Biennale, we stayed in two great hotels—one, although closer to the main tourist sites, located in a proper Venetian neighborhood, and the other on its own private island with a destination restaurant. Here are the highlights from our trip, including what's to do in the destination a truly special dining experience.

Ca' di Dio

We chose the new five-star Ca' di Dio because of its ideal location with convenient proximity to the contemporary gallery district, the Venice Biennale sites (a five-minute walk to the Arsenale Pavilion and 10 minutes to the Giardini Park), San Marco Square (a 10-minute walk), and right in front of the Arsenale vaporetto station. The other thing we liked was that it was away from the tourist crowds and in a real Venetian neighborhood. 

The building dates back from 1272 and the restoration respects the integrity of the original architecture; plus, the interior designers used Venetian artisans to uphold traditional fabrics, furniture making and materials used over the last centuries. 

Of the 66 rooms on three floors, 57 are suites, from junior size to executive size, and the top two suites in the Altana category, have access to a private roof terrace. We stayed in Room 320 on the third floor, a Junior Suite with partially slanted ceilings, natural wood beams and lovely views of the lagoon facing San Giorgio Island. Our padded, linen headboard had tan colored straps, and beautifully crafted Murano glass side lamps in shades of amber and jade colors. Bathrooms are outfitted with red Italian marble sinks, rain shower heads, bidets and polished brass faucets. 

Breakfast was served in a tranquil courtyard surrounded by manicured lawns, palm trees, white canvas umbrellas covering the tables and an ancient well. The buffet has an extensive selection of cheeses, Italian and French pastries, dried and fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals and smoked salmon, plus made-to-order omelets, pancakes and other breakfast dishes.  

Ca' Di Dio Junior Suite

The Vero restaurant has romance in mind for dinner with outdoor tables decorated with Venetian glass goblets, ceramic dishes and white linens, all facing the laguna. Executive Chef Raimondo Squeo prepares a modern Venetian menu with dishes such as broccoli soup with fried sardines, mussels, and pesto risotto with porcini mushrooms and razor clams; for dessert, a nougat parfait with olive oil ganache and salted honey. Inside another hidden courtyard is the Essentia Restaurant, which offers lighter fare, snacks, drinks and cocktails.

One of the head concierges, Caterina Vianello, highly recommends guests to explore the neighborhood the hotel is situated in, Castello, which is inhabited with Venetians and has loads of authentic, non-touristy trattorie, pizzerias, bars and cafes. Vianello and her staff can also arrange guided tours of museums and palazzos, Venetian mask-making classes and rowing lessons; plus, the hotel offers complimentary visits to all guests to the Murano glass factory that produces the lamps, vases and glass accessories on property. During the Carnival period in February, the hotel can assist guests in choosing masks and costumes for Carnival balls and other related events. Every guest is provided with a Ca' di Dio Guest Assistant, who will see to all their needs for tours, excursions, reservations. and experiences. 

Insider tip: All the Murano glass pieces displayed throughout the hotel are available for purchase and the hotel can arrange shipping. 

Ca' di Dio is part of V Retreats, a group of four luxury hotels based throughout Italy, and is also a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Travel advisors should contact Reservations Manager Lucrezia Lenarda at [email protected].


JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa 

JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa's church and olive groves

Just an 18-minute, private transfer from the hustle and tourist bustle of San Marco brings you to JW Marriott Venice on a lush, 40-acre private island. The man-made island was originally occupied by a hospital complex in the early 20th century, and many of the buildings were refurbished and repurposed for the hotel. 

We were given a tour of the extensive grounds, which included vegetable gardens and fruit orchards (from which the restaurants source their fruits and vegetables), olive groves with 100-year-old olive trees (they press own olive oil), flower and plant gardens, and outdoor lounge areas with hammocks, picnic areas and gravel bicycle paths. There are two outdoor pools, one on the rooftop of the main building and another larger pool with water activities, more designed for families and kids. The spa and gym are together in a freestanding, two story building and has an impressive menu of services and facilities, including an indoor and outdoor vitality pool with water jets (the outdoor portion of the pool is on a grassy area on the water’s edge), eight treatment rooms, a spa suite for couple’s treatments, hammam, and steam room. 

The hotel has 266 rooms and suites and we stayed in La Maisonette Loft. The experience was like staying in a luxurious townhouse rather than just a hotel room. At the entrance is a manicured garden secluded by high hedges, complete with a couch and two club chairs with plush cushions. Inside, the two- story living room has contemporary furniture such as a fabulous white, tufted Le Corbusier-style chaise. The upstairs bedroom had a king-size bed and a generously sized bathroom. Two things we liked about our suite were the two full bathrooms, one on the main floor and the other in the bedroom, and the privacy and quietude. 

The highlight of our stay—and one of the major draws of the hotel—is the Fiola at Dopolavoro restaurant. The hotel selects a new, renowned chef every year and we were treated to the fantastic cuisine of superstar Italian chef Fabio Trabocchi, based in Washington, D.C.; he owns a successful chain of award-winning restaurants, some with Michelin stars, throughout the U.S. and in Spain, Italy, and one in London. Trabocchi was brought up in an obscure region of Italy near the Adriatic and his cooking is inspired by his father who was a passionate gardener and farmer. 

JW Marriott Resort & Spa Rooftop Pool

Our starter was a sublime ravioli stuffed with plump lobster bits and a touch of ginger, followed by a whole Branzino fish, served with polenta, dressed with olive oil and mussels in broth. The food was so superb, we opted for two desserts, an intense chocolate terrine with sea salt, and crystallized pineapple, topped with a dollop of pistachio gelato, and tiramisu, cleverly presented in a white china cup, with a big scoop of dark chocolate ice cream on top. 

Note: Fiola at Dopolavoro is open to the public and there’s a free shuttle boat from San Marco to the hotel. A new Michelin-starred Italian chef will be appointed at Dopolavoro starting March 6, 2023, upon the resort's reopening for the season.

The Sapori Cooking Academy offers guests cooking classes specializing in Venetian cuisine and preparations for packing a perfect picnic basket. Children over six years old are encouraged to participate in the classes. 

We asked the Head Concierge Vittorio Talvacchia ([email protected]) what kinds of experiences and excursions he and his team can provide guests of the hotel with, and he replied, "Our guests choose to stay with us because of how many experiences are already on offer at our private island resort."

He added: "Our most popular experience is our 'Hidden Venice' tour, a walking tour that explores the lesser-known sites of the city, where it's quieter and you avoid the crowds. As many of our guests are families, we offer a fun, immersive 'Family Scavenger Hunt of Venice,' where kids will learn many things about the city while trying to find clues and objects, exploring the beautiful calli (streets) and campielli (squares), with the help of one of our top guides. For those looking to learn the skills behind some of Venice's oldest traditions, we arrange anything from 'Gondola Rowing Classes' to a 'Carnival Mask Making Workshop.'"  

JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa is open seasonally from March until the end of October. Travel advisors should contact Reservations Manager Alessandra Cannas, [email protected]


Note: According to Reuters, Venice is currently seeing unusually low water levels, meaning it is impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to navigate some of its famous canals. The low water levels are being blamed on the lack of rain (locally) and snow (in the Alps) a high pressure system, a full moon and sea currents.

Related Stories

Eating Local with a Venetian

Italian Wellness Resort Preidlhof Introduces New Offerings

Venice’s Cicchetti Crawl

Tourissimo Offering Culinary Cycling Tour of Sardinia