Despite its reputation as one of the most romantic cities on earth, Venice manages not to be cliched. Even if you’ve visited before, you’ll still marvel at it, particularly when you get off the (very) well-beaten tourist track.
In fact, the best way to explore Venice is to put your guidebook away and simply wander; all passageways seem to eventually lead to San Marco or the Rialto Bridge, so it's hard to get lost. Once you've taken in the splendour of Piazza San Marco, with its elegant, music-filled cafes and grand Doge's Palace, head down tiny alleyways with washing hung high above, people-watch on one of the tiny bridges and share a pizza and gelato in a sun-filled square.
There are lots of glamorous places to stay, but head and shoulders above the rest is the legendary Hotel Cipriani. Set on Giudecca Island, which faces the San Marco across the shimmering lagoon, it's one of our all time favourite European hotels.
What makes it so special?
Unlike many five-star resorts, where you feel as if you could be anywhere in the world, The Cipriani is unmistakably Italian. From the moment you're picked up close to the airport in one of their custom-built wood and cream-cushioned boats you feel like a film star (don't forget your sunglasses). On arrival, a beaming doorman (or should that be dockman?) welcomes you so warmly, you feel like a long lost friend rather than a tired tourist.
Room with a view
The decor is exquisite; all the lamps and chandeliers are Venetian Murano glass, polished parquet wood flooring gleams and silk curtains and marble bathrooms add to the opulence. All the rooms are special, but we'd recommend the recently revamped Junior Suites, particularly Room 44 for its huge private terrace with loungers and table overlooking the Olympic-sized pool – a heavenly place to chill out in the afternoon after pounding the streets of Venice. If you have money to burn (£3000 per night!), the Palazzo Vendramin is a separate building with butler service and Suite San Marco, where you can gaze at the city through arched windows from your bed.
The finer details
We found the attention to detail here much higher than most hotels we've stayed at; not just shampoo and conditioner but facial cleanser in the Penhaligon toiletry set, sockets to fit any plug in the world (so no need to bring an adaptor), a catalogue of every Oscar winning film ever made available on demand and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. The list is endless.
Eat, drink and pamper
Breakfast is a rather chic affair in the luxurious Fortuny Restaurant – also open for a pricey dinner – where you'll see smartly dressed Italians sipping Prosecco and tucking into perfectly cooked scrambled eggs and pastries. But our favourite eatery is Cips, a less formal restaurant with a picturesque terrace with white umbrellas overlooking the lagoon and city. There's also a vineyard, stunning garden with rose pagoda and the Casanova Wellness Centre complete with a couple's treatment room. No wonder everyone from the A-list likes of George Clooney to a whole list of former presidents have loved it here.
Hotel Ciprani from £1505pp for three nights including flights. To book and for details visit elegantresorts.co.uk