How do I best describe the storybook experience of Venice and Rome under the care and love of the Dedica Anthology and all its amazing teams? First, I’m striving not to use every book and story related metaphor I can think of (which is no mean feat when the group’s name is all about being a collection of stories) and second, I’m pausing for a moment while a memory of calm washes over me — something I have to attribute to this incredible trip.
The Grand Hotel dei Dogi in Venice
Starting in Venice we were met by early morning smiles as we stepped out into the balmy September heat, a wonderfully far cry from the drizzling London we left behind. In mere minutes we were bouncing across the causeway water between the airport and the city, each wave and tang of salt air behind us signalling a goodbye to the everyday. Greeted at the door of the Grand Hotel dei Dogi by the doting team, we sipped crisp peach bellinis (bars of the UK, please stop adding extra sugar to this gorgeous Italian classic) and were asked to choose between three quintessentially Italian scents, the start of our experience with the hotel’s brand partner Acqua di Parma. Thinking little of the choices we made and going instinctually, we were then surprised with our chosen scent as a reed diffuser in our rooms, the scent making the setting all the more enticing.
Not that the hotel or the gorgeous rooms within need any help in stealing your heart or your senses. Traditional Venetian opulence is poured into every corner, with touches of modern styling here and there, but with classic Italy at its core. As you sink into a plush chair or lay on a luscious bed your eyes dance over the glass chandeliers, light fittings and decorations, all of which come from the world famous Murano island which sits just outside of Venice. Local artisans and a love of the region they come through is obvious in even the smallest of details, but it’s hard to stay focused on any one thing for too long when there is so much beauty vying for your attention.
Food in the hotel is, of course, spectacular, but there’s so much more to it than that. Locally sourced seafood (did you know there are squid and octopus in the Venetian lagoon?) made up much of our lunches and dinners during our stay, their flavours balanced against seasonal vegetables and local wines. Whether you’re dining in one of the beautiful indoor spaces that can be transformed from a professional conference to a show-stopping wedding setting with terrifying ease, or out in the hotel’s idyllic garden, you can rest assured that the incomparable hospitality team will take only the best care of you. If you want to take things up to new heights the hotel can arrange for local musicians to serenade you as you dine, an experience we delighted in as we sunk ever deeper into Venetian living.
The Dedica group revel in providing that immersive experience, with carefully curated maps of locals treasures that you can go and enjoy, or guided tours led by locals that happen to take you through some of the city’s best restaurants so that you can taste the very best of the world outside the hotel. For us, having a guide that spoke about his childhood running through the city’s labyrinthine alleyways brought a kind of love for the city that can only come from decades of calling somewhere home. Venice is a dreamlike city to walk around as the sun sets, and as the lights falls away behind the buildings, we were glad to return to the feather soft beds of the hotel.
If you’re in need of deeper relaxation, the spa is tucked away on the ground floor, being impossibly large and offering every service you could dream of, all whilst providing a feeling of separation from the real world and an escape from the passage of time. But, if spas aren’t for you there are a thousand other ways to unwind with the Grand Hotel dei Dogi, and an arranged sketching class remains a personal highlight of the trip.
Before we knew it our stay in Venice was over and a high speed train to Rome was the order of the day. The experience was far less taxing than flying ever is, and reaching up to 300km per hour, the trip sped by and the country idyll of Venice was left behind for the sprawling city scape of Rome.
Rome and the Palazzo Naiadi
Much to our surprise, our first stop off the train wasn’t to the hotel, but instead a vespa of Rome, zipping through the infamous traffic and listening to history and folklore of the eternal city over radios in our helmets. The Dedica team always seem to know how to shake your cobwebs loose, just before any start to form. After the quiet hum of the train this was a perfect antithesis, and it made the approach to the Palazzo Naiadi even more breathtaking. Curving around the Piazza Republicca we stepped into the shade of the gargantuan building and out of the Roman rush around us. After an all too brief stop to see our impeccably grand rooms it was off to the spa, to unwind after all the excitement of the day so far.
The spa team at the Palazzo Naiadi are miracle workers, versed in every kind of treatment you could ask for but who also have the instinct and creativity to tailor a treatment just for you. Whilst compatriots reported deep tissue shoulder massages that left them in bliss, for me, time and attention was first paid to my aching feet and without realising I somehow went from tightly knotted to on the verge of nodding off.
It always seems sad if you fall asleep for even a minute in a spa because you’re missing the conscious feeling of someone taking care of your body, but is there really anything better than becoming so relaxed that your body tells you you’re safe enough to fall asleep? Couple this experience with a ready drawn bath waiting for you when you return to your room and it truly is heaven. ‘Heaven’ happens a lot though when you’re in a setting that carefully curated, and our adventures certainly weren’t over yet.
Our dinner was served on the rooftop terrace, overlooking the architecture of the city, picking out landmarks as we supped on cocktails. It’s a location imagined for parties and grand affairs of all sizes and during the Golden Hour the city and terrace simply glow, beckoning you to explore all it has to offer. For us, that rounded up in an unforgettable trip to the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
Opera and Rome are more than synonymous, and a trip to the theatre was a perfect way to round out our trip. Surrounded by crushed velvet and absorbed in each reverberating note, witnessing the spectacle of a Roman opera in front of a baying and emotive crowd is the moment I can’t get away from when remembering this beautiful trip. When we returned to the expansive hotel lobby, we were inundated with midnight treats, blissful tea, and a tiramisu built before our eyes.
The final morning in Italy we explored one of the hotel’s suites which became our breakfast dining room. The foods and flavours were delicate and more-ish, never heavy except for the fact that it was hard to stop eating. Over great coffee and smoked salmon we mused about the trip, about how we would explore with the Dedica Secret Map before our return to the UK.
Parting, as ever, was bittersweet, but it brings a sense of longing to return that just can’t be ignored. So we’ll be back soon for a sequel, and see what new story the Dedica Anthology has to unfold. It was impossible to ignore that perfect literary pun, forgive me.
The Dedica Anthology (www.dahotels.com; +800 8099 8099) offers rooms at Palazzo Naiadi from €300/£267 a night based on two sharing a double room with breakfast.
The Dedica Anthology (www.dahotels.com; +800 8099 8099) offers rooms at Grand Hotel dei Dogi from €150/£134 per night based on two people sharing a double room with breakfast.