As we pulled into Venice, I was giddy with anticipation – a lifelong dream of mine was about to be realized! We were getting ready to journey across Europe on the famous Belmond Venice Simplon Orient Express (of Agatha Christie fame). We started with a magical 24 hours in Venice with the renowned Belmond Hotel Cipriani, and would continue on for 36 hours on the train crossing 6 countries until we finally pulled into London at the end. I had extremely high expectations for the trip, and they were met in all ways. We couldn’t think of a better way to start the trip than by finally getting to experience the romance of Venice and the hospitality of Belmond at Hotel Cipriani.
Regular followers of my writings know how much we love Belmond — they just get everything right (see our journey through Peru here or their latest Wes Anderson-inspired overview video for a peek at what I mean). Coming off of a whirlwind two week road trip across the Balkans, we were ready to settle down, and from the moment we stepped off the hotel’s speedboat onto Cipriani’s estate, we received a warm and expressive welcome in true Italian fashion.
We checked into our room looking out over the broad canal, and took a moment to soak it in. We were finally in Venice! Hotel Cipriani is located on Giudecca, an island just 5 minutes by boat from Saint Marcos Square, the lively heart of Venice’s old town — far enough for a quiet get away, yet super accessible to everything with the hotel’s private boat taxi. (I was already very excited to see Venice, and as you may know from our tour of Budapest few things make me happier than a ride on a speedboat!) We arrived quite early and were able to catch the last of breakfast at the hotel, sipping coffee and pinching ourselves as we looked out over the garden terrace to the dock where other well-heeled guests would come and go on their boats. Roberto, the charming concierge who greets guests at the dock is the longest term employee at Hotel Cipriani and has been welcoming guests to the hotel for over 25 years. ‘I have the best office in the world!” he exclaimed as he spread out his arms at the aqua water before him.
After breakfast we hopped down to the docks to head off and get lost in the narrow streets and waterways of Venice. There are perks to arriving in the fall, as there were fewer people than at peak season in mid-summer. While I have a long list of museums I’d like to visit in Venice, we have a policy that if we’re in a city for a short amount of time we skip the museums and spend our time absorbing local life by walking the streets. We sampled a few fresh pastas and enjoyed a glass of wine, and later on we found a beautiful grocery and brought back tons of Italian cheeses, meats and a bottle of wine to enjoy on our balcony as we watched the sun set over the sea.
In anticipation of our journey on Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, we shipped our black tie attire from the States to arrive at Hotel Cipriani before our departure so we’d be property attired for dinner aboard the train. On this occasion, our shipping provider made a mistake and the clothes looked to be trapped in the shipping system. Hotel Cipriani’s ace concierge helped us sort through Italian customs and saved the day, with the package finally arriving at 8 o’clock the night before our departure!
It was a short trip but a wonderful taste of this magical, floating city.
This is Part I of our Journey from Venice to London with Belmond. You can find Part II here. Be sure to follow along on with our daily adventures on Instagram here, and subscribe to my weekly newsletter here and never miss a post!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com