*I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*
We went to Italy back in April and I learned a valuable lesson…blog while visiting! Seriously, I’m sitting here now with a fresh cup of coffee, trying to remember what Venice was like three months ago, and all I can tell you is that I had the best pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life, and the JW Marriott’s spa was heaven on earth. Oh, and ‘real talk’, the city was a beautiful, crazy, frustrating maze with a million bridges that either took you to your destination or a dead-end. Get lost if you can, it’s fun.
We were in Venice for four days, and it was plenty of time to enjoy the historic city. We did one touristy day with my grandparents and saw St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), in addition to the St. Mark’s Basilica. The gondola ride was my favorite and certainly worth every Euro. Venice becomes very quiet when you experience it from the water, and you feel a true local connection as you float throughout the canals. By the way, it didn’t smell, but we weren’t there in the summer with a million tourists either.
After the gondola ride we took a water taxi to the other side of Venice; I have Jewish heritage, so my grandmother was adamant on visiting the old Jewish ghetto. This was actually a fascinating experience. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, and we explored the tiny area that was once home for so many. We walked through the halls of three synagogues and saw how each differed in their attention to detail and design. The heartbreaker was the little metal plates scattered around the ghetto in front of numerous doors. Those plates named the Jews who had been taken from their homes and killed in Auschwitz during World War II. They are to be remembered and never forgotten.
Once we left the tour group, we stopped at a local cafe in the ghetto for a cappuccino and tiramisu. With all the heaviness in our hearts, we had to have some dessert and caffeine, respectively.
My favorite thing about Venice, wasn’t Venice! It was our hotel, on an island, in the Venetian Lagoon! The JW Marriott has its own island and you have to take a water taxi or use their included transportation to get to the property. It was phenomenal; everything was on-site. The food would appease a third-generation New Orleans family, and the GOCO spa was luxurious. If you don’t know what an oxygen facial is, Google it, and get one!
We spent one whole day at the spa and were royally spoiled. I mean, I could have been related to Kate Middleton…maybe? This is where I ate the best pizza in the entire world. I’m claiming it. Right here, right now. The JW Marriott in Venice, by the spa pool, in my bathing suit, is where I almost collapsed into a pizza coma.
Imagine the perfectly baked crust with red sauce that isn’t too overwhelming. Deliciously sautéed eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms were placed in a heaping layer, while, the best part, the ricotta cheese, was dolloped sparingly, yet perfectly, amongst the vegetables.
We also had the food experience of our lives at Dopolavoro Dining Room, which is their Michelin-starred restaurant. This one is a pretty penny and your first-born child, and maybe your dog, but it’s worth it. We walked in to be seated, and instead of seating us, they took us on a tour of their organic gardens while giving us tasty treats along the way. Oh, and the bartender knew how to make a damn fine martini, as well. When we finally made it to our seats, we had a fabulous five-course dinner that lasted hours, and I’m pretty sure even though we were supposed to have five courses, we had a few more because the food never stopped coming out of the kitchen!
“Here try this,” our waiter would insist.
“The chef would like you to try these, as well.”
I mean, we couldn’t be rude; we gladly ate everything.
Then the waiter picked a fantastic aperitivo for us enjoy as an after-dinner delight. When I tell you that the bottle was as big as my Chihuahua, I’m lying. It was as big as two Chihuahuas. It’s also “a thing” to take a reflection picture in the ceiling; of course we didn’t know this, but the waiter made us do it, so alas.
We couldn’t get enough of the JW. I recommend everyone stay there when they go to Venice. It had the best view of the city from their rooftop infinity pool and restaurant, and if you play the miles/points game, you can go for a fairly affordable vacation. We also devoured mussels every day on the rooftop because they were prepared for the gods. In addition to amazing food, and incredible service, they had a resort package that allowed you to rent bicycles daily to explore the island. We were two kids at a theme park!
On a little side note, my husband and I had our third wedding anniversary while we were vacationing in Venice, so of course, we left Venice and went to Verona! You know, Romeo and Juliet and all that jazz. However, before we did, the JW made us a gondola cake for our anny! MAJOR kudos, amirite?!
Verona was absolutely beautiful, and if you are in Venice long enough, I highly recommend a day trip to see the city. The shopping was fantastic, and if you are a history buff, the arena in Verona is actually older (and in better condition) than the coliseum in Rome! Oh, and Romeo and Juliet IS a real story. I thought Shakespeare just had a great imagination, but no…they were real people. So you can stop by and see Juliet’s balcony and take a picture with a her statue. We got geeky and did it, because you know…lovers!