My Venice memories go like this: my family (six people!) went on vacation (a road trip) in Istria, Croatia in a (tiny!) two-bedroom apartment. One day we decided to hop on a boat and get our butts over to Venice. What followed was a day of chasing each other up and down the streets, bridges and squares. It was extremely hot, the streets were packed (surprise), and I remember my brother and I were taking “funny” mirror pictures while Mum tried on jewellery. My Dad has this cute thing of buying her a necklace from any place they travel to. Oh and then they took a ride on a gondola and the four of us had to wait until they returned from what felt like a second honeymoon (“Just come back with the love of your life another day – and WAIT HERE!”) Alright guys. We then got lost and very nearly missed the last boat back to Croatia.

Summing up, it has not been glamorous. A couple of years onwards, I would be in for a treat when the invitation to an opening gala of a certain hotel made its way to my desk…

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The hotel

The J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa only opened its stunning doors in March 2015. It sits on Rose Island (very aptly) and is a 20-minute boat ride away from Venice. It has 250 rooms, a cooking academy, four restaurants, a rooftop pool, a spa area – and even a church! The thing is, you wouldn’t know it’s that busy because the island is huge and it takes ages to get anywhere, in a good way that is. Wide-open space is a luxury, and it’s something hotels in Venice normally don’t offer.

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The island

There is a certain magic about standing on an island that has a view onto Venice: you get both the relaxed resort vibes and the buzz of the city. A rooftop pool and bar are located on the top floor and on sunny days (and I think most of them are) you can see the city shine crystal clear while breathing in seaside air. Talk about bliss!

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The whole site is kept in a very clean, modern design. You wouldn’t think you’re anywhere even remotely close to Italy by looking at the interior design or infrastructure of the resort. All crazy cool turquoise-themed maisonettes come with a private pool, one morning I very nearly slipped down the stairs because I couldn’t wait to dip my feet in there before taking an actual shower. Whoops.

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The food

You’d think four restaurants is enough to keep your taste buds entertained. And of course it is, but the Marriott also fancied something a bit more interactive: they offer cooking classes for guests with renowned chefs who know what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to perfect their art (making pasta really is art, look at the heart I’ve drawn!) as much as they do. Needless to say, with my overcooked and rushed spaghetti at home, the following couldn’t really compare. I won’t ever get enough of Italian cuisine and red wine, so… it’s a match I’d say!

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The city

And now coming to the most exciting bit: Venice! Luckily transfers from the JWM are hassle-freee, there’s a taxi going to the city and back every 30 minutes. There are actual water roads, and roads naturally are a bit bumpy. So riding a taxi in isn’t for the faint-hearted and will probably make your heart jump a bit – embrace that.

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Talking urban explorations. We spent way too much cash on Bellinis at Harry’s Bar (not worth it) and listened to hilarious gigolo stories by the owner of Libreria Aqua Alta (so worth it!), a bookshop that has a canal exit with a space to sit and read, and a really adorable chubby cat. I had never been to the book shop before but the density of books and smell of the old pages made me really nostalgic – screw you Kindle, I want my books to reach the ceiling in my apartment too.

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The northern part of Venice is a lot less touristy than the city center, and it made me love Venice even more. Kids play basketball in between old Venetian manor houses, ice cream doesn’t cost €5 anymore, farmers sell their fruits and vegetables, and there’s a lot of linen hanging out of stunning houses. If you hadn’t guessed: the combination of Venice’s colours, bridges and turquoise waves and the JWM’s serious chill-out vibes made for the excellent city break. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but miss the Schmitt family chaos a teeny tiny bit when strolling through the alleys in a normal pace…

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Thank you J.W. Marriott for inviting (and treating!) me to your opening
and for showing me a side of Venice I didn’t know.

Views are my own of course.

All photographs by Caroline Schmitt