When you first visit a dreamy location such as Venice, it can be jarring to not only leave the safety of a world on dry land behind, but also to change your preconceptions. Personally, I hadn’t anticipated quite how far away it was from mainland Italy or how loud certain areas can be. In tourist laden streets and local filled restaurants the noise can be like a beehive and the buzz only growing louder as people struggle to hear one another.
Escaping to a quiet refuge is something I value highly wherever I go; it’s fantastic to be immersed in the busy culture you’re visiting, but it’s not exactly the most zen experience at times. Thankfully, there are areas of Venice which are lesser discovered, less touristy and so much more peaceful — The Grand Hotel Dei Dogi being chief amongst them.
Nestled in Cannaregio and just a few doors down from the Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto (a beautiful church that is a simple must see) sits The Grand Hotel Dei Dogi. A five star luxury hotel which prides itself on crafting a story book experience for everyone of its visitors. The story it told me was one of modernity blending into history. Once you step through the doors of the hotel a perfect sense of quiet settles upon you, with the rush of travel left outside. Within these walls everything slows down, insisting that you take the time to drink in the beauty of the interior and quieting the mind in the process. The rooms feature the softest beds in Venice and the scent of Aqua di Parma is never far behind you. It lulls you into a dream like state so you can let go of your preconceptions of Venice and embrace the bliss of what’s around you.
There are more than just beautiful scents to be enjoyed indoors, with Murano glass chandeliers twinkling above you and historic portraits of the Dogis looking down to you. All of this surprised and delighted me as I’m sure it will you, but the jaw dropping moment came upon discovering the hotel’s expansive garden. I don’t know what I was expecting of Venice upon my first visit, but a virtual Eden certainly wasn’t included.
The garden is the largest in Venice, filled with impossibly tall trees and the most aromatic flowers you can imagine. Certain members of the garden family have been there for hundreds of years and look over you as you explore the verdant foliage of the lower hanging plants. Its serene silence is incomparable to anywhere else in Venice. Lying just a 20 minute water taxi from the noise and clamour of St Mark’s Square the garden provides the quiet antithesis you need after a busy day of exploring the city. There is also plenty to see in the garden itself, with unfamiliar plants and subtly placed placards helping explores to discover varieties of greenery that they might never have seen before.
Of course, for the oldest trees in Venice to survive they have to be strong as well as beautiful, taking in freshwater where they can but ultimately reaching into the salt water lagoon which Venice inhabits. The enduring beauty of the garden watches over you, and despite being an open space seems to hold you close, like a cherished friend. For all the beauty of the hotel, looking back, my favourite moments were those spent sipping espresso under the trees — it’s worth going back just for that.
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.