By { Beth Weitzman

With its signature red terra cotta rooftops, meandering canals, selfie-worthy bridges, Renaissance and Gothic palaces, top-notch waterfront hotels and dining options galore, few places compare to Venice, Italy. The capital city of northern Italy’s Veneto region is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon of the Adriatic Sea. In addition to simple beauty, romantic charm is found at every turn. It’s easy to spend the day just walking around, enjoying a glass of rosé here and there, popping into local boutiques, as well as nationally known shops, and exploring the many cultural historic landmarks scattered around the island. Among the many fabulous hotels in which to stay, we chose two of the finest for our far-too-fast trip to this magical destination. 

The JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

Located on the private Isola delle Rose (Roses Island), just a quick ride to/from St. Mark’s Square, the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa is a refined restoration by architect Matteo Thun. Arriving by boat to the grand entrance of this private haven, discerning travelers can’t help but be in awe. Open seasonally (March to October), the serene retreat features lush green lawns, endless fields of sunflowers, vegetable garden and olive grove, not to mention attentive service and some of the finest wellness, dining and pool experiences to be found in Venice. 

The 250 guest rooms and suites, conceived by Thun, boast floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with natural light and offer impeccable views of Venice or the resort’s formal gardens, and expansive showers and free-standing bathtubs. The resort offers five distinct accommodations, including the Hotel, La Residenza, the Uliveto, La Maisonette and, for ultimate privacy and intimacy, La Villa—a hidden retreat. The splendid 2,367-square-foot Villa Rose, built in the Romanesque Revival style in 1913, boasts a total of six beds, two bathrooms, an extensive living area and sitting room, a dining room with separate kitchen and a small lounge with bathroom. It’s surrounded by a gorgeous garden that opens onto a wooden parterre with swimming pool and views of St. Mark’s Square on the horizon. It doesn’t get better for group of friends, a few couples or a family.

Another worthy upgraded option is to book La Maisonette Loft Suite or La Maisonette Pool Loft Suite, both featuring 592 square feet of space. The light-filled, split-level Loft Suite features a living area on the first floor with a spacious lounge that extends outdoors onto the wooden parterre and surrounding garden. Meanwhile, the well-appointed bedroom (luxurious linens and comfy bed lull you to sleep at night), wardrobe and bathroom are on the second level. There’s plenty of space for two (or even three) to spread out and unwind without having to leave the room. There’s really something special about this and the Pool Loft Suite, which also features two floors and faces onto the island’s private canal and garden with swimming pool. The Pool Loft Suite boasts a larger living area with its own bathroom and wardrobe. The second floor features a sleeping area with views of the garden, a spacious wardrobe and a bathroom with separate tub and shower. These accommodations are highly recommended, especially if a more boutique experience and/or privacy is what you seek. 

La Maisonette Lofts are also great in that they are located near the JW Venice Spa, a relaxing sanctuary housed in a simple yet elegant building dating from the early 20th century.  As the largest and most comprehensive spa in Venice, it features eight treatment rooms, stunning views of the lagoon, an elegant spa suite, a sauna, steam bath, hammam, gym, heated indoor/outdoor vitality pool and plush cabanas and chaises overlooking Venice (seriously serene). Yoga and meditation classes on the wooden parterre are also delightful. 

With a combination of dining options, there’s no shortage of amazing culinary experiences here. Start out at Cucina for breakfast, and enjoy a menu of international cuisine with a focus on fresh and simple dishes. The fine-dining culinary concept, Fiola at Dopolavoro Venezia, features dishes made with seasonal ingredients locally sourced from Venice’s centuries-old Rialto Market, the Adriatic Sea, and the private island’s own vegetable garden and olive grove. The ever-changing menu of traditional Venetian cuisine with a modern twist includes dishes such as Fiola lobster ravioli, foie gras alla Veneziana, moeche col pien (soft-shell crabs from the Venetian lagoon) and Venetian-style tuna crudo finished table-side. Meanwhile, Sagra Rooftop Restaurant offers stunning 360 degree views of Venice, the park and lagoon, along with a superb wine list and menu that takes diners on a culinary journey through Italy (the Caprese salad is to-die-for). Prepare to perch here for hours. During the summer months, Giardino, adjacent to the rooftop pool and open, focuses on wood-fired items from the grill and is great for a leisurely lunch while Dispensa Delicatessen is an all day stop for grab-and-go snacks, picnic basket goodies, drinks, freshly brewed coffee, gifts (amazing olive oil) and more. Also not-to-miss, guests can hone their Venetian cooking skills by taking one of the many  cooking classes on offer at the resort’s Sapori Cooking Academy. 

When it comes to coffee, cocktailing or chilling with a bottle of wine, multiple bars, each one unique, offer good libations day to night. The Rose Bar Lounge is the spot to go fine Italian coffee and pastries, in addition to premium spirits, cocktails and wines. For outdoor cocktails, cicchetti (small snacks), sharing platters and premium gelato, sidle up the bar at Sagra Rooftop Restaurant. There’s also the Giardino Bar located in a lush outdoor environment, the Spa Cafe with detoxing herbal teas and the Dispensa Delicatessen offering coffee, wine, pasta, salumi and more.  

Even just one night at this island oasis will leave you longing for more. Isola delle Rose, Laguna di San Marco, +39.041.2968111,

Hotel Papadopoli Venezia — MGallery

Even if you choose to stay some time at one of the many private island hotels, staying on the main island for at least a couple nights is highly recommended. We selected Hotel Papadopoli Venezia—MGallery (an Accor hotel), a boutique hotel conveniently located in the historic city center on the main island, walking distance to the Grand Canal, the train station and plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops and tourist sights. It’s a wonderful place in which to perch to be close to all the action, just a quick walk or boat ride away. Art, history and culture abound in the area, with the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Scuola Grande dei Carmini all nearby, and St Marks Square isn’t too far. The quaint, luxurious hotel features 96 rooms and suites with plush decor reflective of 18th-century elegance. Room terraces boast views of the Tolentini Canal and Papadopoli Gardens. Super-comfortable beds beckon in the evening and make it hard to get up in the morning. Well-appointed bathrooms also add to the appeal. 

The hotel’s Giardino D’Inverno restaurant, situated at the heart of an enchanting winter garden, is famous for its traditional Venetian cuisine and extraordinary setting—the Park Papadopoli, boasting tropical plants, rare flowers and birds. Three meals a day are served here, with a delightful buffet breakfast included with the room. Chef Davide Lazzarini prepares simple dishes bursting with flavor, such as marinated and smoked salmon carpaccio with fine herbs, tagliatelle with duck ragout, sea bass ravioli and Milanese-style veal. For drinks, the intimate La Terrazza Lounge Bar, adjacent to the lobby, features grappa and sophisticated signature cocktails. Santa Croce 245, Giardini Papado-poli, +39.041.710400,

Mangiare e bere

It’s a five-minute boat ride from St. Mark’s Square to Giudecca Island, where the world-class Belmond Hotel Cipriani’s signature restaurant, Oro, is.  One of the best in Venice, with glittering Murano chandeliers dangling from a domed gold-leaf ceiling, it’s a perfect setting in which to enjoy the art-inspired, seafood-forward culinary creations of executive chef Davide Bisetto, such as painted asparagus, casunziei with beetroot cooked in ash with mascarpone and cured pork cheek, and sea bass cooked in clay with Venetian ponzu. There’s also an extensive wine list and a terrace on which to en-joy digestifs. Giudecca 10, +39.041.240801,

Another not-to-miss spot is the Gritti Terrace at The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Located directly on the Grand Canal, this alfresco dining option offers views over Punta della Dogana and the Santa Maria della Salute Basilica. With a decor reminiscent of a luxury liner, the restaurant, which is a social hub of Venice, is open noon to 6 p.m., April through October, and offers a menu of appetizers, light salads, pasta, risotto and platters of seasonal seafood or meat from Executive Chef Daniele Turco. Pair your lunch with afternoon tea, a crisp glass of Champagne or a Basil-ica cocktail, which was inspired by the Santa Maria della Salute church just across the water. Campo Santa Maria del Giglio 2467, +39.041.794611,

Itinerario Essenziale

St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)—Visitors flock to this famous gathering place, where there are shops, restaurants, cafes, St. Mark’s Basilica and ample spots for photo ops—with or without pigeons.

The Grand Canal—As its name suggests, this is the main waterway of Venice and, along with a network of smaller connecting canals, serves as the main transportation thoroughfare for gondolas, vaporetti (water buses) and private water taxis. 

Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and Bridge of Sighs—Put these historic, grand and gorgeous landmarks on your must-visit list. 

Murano and Burano—A quick boat ride across the lagoon brings you to the islands of Murano, renowned for its long tradition of glass-making; and Burano, where lace-makers have been practicing their craft for centuries. 

Peggy Guggenheim Collection—At this world-renowned modern art museum, expect to see American and European works by Picasso, Dali, Léger, Braque and many more. 

Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)—The perfect spot for a selfie, this bridge crosses the Grand Canal. 

San Polo—Across the Rialto Bridge, you’ll find a buzzing market where locals and chefs shop for produce and seafood, as well as shops run by local artisans.