One of the challenges of our era is to find a balance of using precious downtime to travel and discover new places whilst recharging for the frenetic pace of normal life. This is even more testing when it’s a city break but I might have found a balance amongst the digital haze.
I love Venice, but if there is one quibble with this magnificent city, it’s that its popularity combined with its architectural nature can make the overall experience feel quite intense, compact and busy.
The recently-opened JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of this rich destination. A place that is far from the madding crowd sitting in its very own bubble of island beauty.
Isola della Rose (or Rose Island) sits in the Venetian Lagoon, a serene retreat where you can now experience a 5 star JW Marriott resort and be only a 15 minute boat ride from St Mark’s Square.
Originally the island hosted a monastery, which has created beautifully mature and well stocked gardens. There is even a charming chapel in the centre of the resort that sits close to a medicinal and culinary herb & vegetable garden. All of these historic riches have been beautiful and sympathetically integrated into the new resort.
Whilst the heritage of the resort cannot be overlooked, what is extraordinary is how the “archistar” of this restoration, Matteo Thun, has created a truly contemporary resort that smoothly marries its past with a contemporary feel of class and sophistication. Being on an island there is a wealth of space and tranquility that truly allows you to breath deeply and unwind. The island has the proximity to allow for a decadent city break and the facilities for a week-long escape from the madness of life. In many ways it’s developing into a destination in itself.
The Bond-style entrance sets the entire tone for the stay as your slipper boat glides into the heart of the hotel. The main 4-storey central building has floor to ceiling windows that floods the space with natural light and serenity.
Our loft-style Maisonette suite was spacious and generous on every level – its décor contemporary and uncluttered with a private patio garden in which to sit, with a glass of something chilled. As expected from one of the giants of hospitality the team at the resort brimmed with pride and effortless servitude.
Each of the rooms, suites and signature JW Villas deliver their own unique ‘Thun’ style, which is mould breaking and delightfully surprising. The first night we dined at Sagra Rooftop Restaurant, which has a magical view over the lagoon to the “Canelletto” horizon – arguably one of the best views in the world in my humble opinion.
The vibe is relaxed and informal so sipping our Aperol Spirtz, choosing dishes inspired by the best that Italy can offer, I can honestly say I was in my happy place. Therapist aside. A great combination of relaxed graceful dining, great Italian food, wonderful wines all swathed in a dramatic sunset behind a Venetian backdrop – this is my kind of heaven.
The next afternoon was spent at GOCO, the resorts wellness spa . Housed in its own historic building that dates back to the early 20th century, the spa is actually the largest in Venice and sits directly overlooking the lagoon. Run in partnership with one of Bangkok’s most respected wellness specialists it has its own sauna, bio sauna, hammam, gym and a pool that extends outdoors in a sequence of sliding glass walls. There is also a wonderful list of treatments brought over from the Orient. What better place to hang out after some serious sightseeing or in our case just a great place to hang out!
Our final evening saw a night of culinary genius at Dopolavoro – which means ‘after work’ in Italian. This Michelin-star restaurant of the acclaimed Verona born Chef Giancarlo Perbellini, managed in conjunction with the incredibly talented yet humble 28-year old Federico Belluca was the jewel in the crown for me. The entire experience from the moment we walked in, the 5 courses and wines, to the moment we were rolled out of the door is “Bravo”.
This was pure food theatre – exquisite in every way. It was like being immersed in a sensory layer cake. The level of passion and thought that is poured into the entire experience is exemplary. It is a total feast for the senses, and food alchemy at its best.
Rose Island has wow factor, contemporary architectural sophistication, a roof-top pool with a view to die for (did I mention the Sunglass Concierge on hand to keep your sunglasses in tip-top condition), dining and spa experiences that are in a class of their own… and it’s only 15 minutes from the heart of one of the most magnificent cities in the world.
For me it’s a place where you can catch your breath, be cocooned in the bubble of effortless elegance, served by people who genuinely love what they do, sit under the most expansive sky and soak up the magnificence of one of the greatest cities on our planet, whilst diving in and out at your leisure.
If there is a watch out, it’s that leaving Isola della Rose with guidebook in hand, can be quite challenging even with the city so tantalisingly close.
So ensure you leave enough time to do justice to both the sightseeing and JW Marriott Venice and book yourself a very long weekend.