Thursday, 27 September 2012

Venice, Italy - Gluttonous Travels (The wine trails - 1st stop)

The rather nice view from our hotel room
at the Hilton Molino Stucky

Goodbye London, Helloooo Venice.

To mark the end of life in London and the start of life in Melbourne, we decided to take a road trip through the wine trails from Venice to Bordeaux. First stop – Venice.

Venice makes you feel like you are floating on a fairy tale island of grandiose palaces and colourful, dilapidated villas, as the tourists float by in gondolas and the espresso machines whirl in the alleyways. It may be heaving with tourists, but something about being surrounded by so much calming water, where even taking a taxi involves an Angelina Jolie style cruise past domed cathedrals, brings an instant feeling of serene other worldliness.

It's all part of the fun, getting lost wandering among the bright blue canals

Venice was going to provide the freshest seafood of our trip before the trek inland to the wineries – think plump, salty little clams with spaghetti in a white wine sauce, grilled razor clams in olive oil, branzino, huge plates of delicate fritto misto, and big, sweet fleshy prawns.  Jet black squid ink pasta and calamari stewed in a tomato sauce with creamy polenta were other favourites. Eat sugary whipped cream sandwiched between meringue, rich chocolate salami, life giving coffee gelato, seafood bruschetta and thin pizza slices the size of your head.

A quick plate of pasta with fresh seafood at Fantasia

Londoners might go looking for cool little bacaro bars a la Polpo, but while there are exceptions, mostly the real deal cichetti bars look like old man pubs with blinking pinball machines and a few ham paninis on the counter top. Polpo is probably more Brooklyn than Venice. For wines, you have the choice of all the local Valpolicellas, Ripassos and Amarones the beautiful Veneto region has to offer.

Steamed lobster at the Aromi restaurant

Risotto with botargo, candied lime and crushed hazelnuts at the Aromi Restaurant

A couple of restaurants we would have liked to have tried were closed for both days of our trip, being a Monday and then a public holiday. Try Corte Sconta and check out the recommendations of An American in London and Mark Bittman. However, the best meal of our trip was at the Aromi restaurant at the Hilton Molino Stucky where we stayed.

The hotel has several restaurants – the Aromi restaurant has the option for a meal on the terrace, with panoramic views over the Guidecca canal, over summer. The fare combines simple, seasonal ingredients in creative Venetian dishes.

Cheese dumplings with crab, sea asparagus and summery black truffle

We tried the degustation menu (€95) - steamed lobster served with vegetables cooked in salt; cottage cheese gnocchi style dumplings with crab, sea asparagus and black truffle (TPG substituted this for the squid ink risotto which was gorgeous); creamy risotto sectioned into thirds with each of botargo, candied lime and crushed hazelnuts; a platter of fresh scampi, monkfish, prawns, sea bream and eel; sweet, caramelised polenta with milk ice-cream and a white and dark chocolate stick;  caramelised polenta with milk ice cream white chocolate pure and dark chocolate stick. On the a la carte menu, pastas are around €25 and mains are about €35, so it's at the pricier end of the spectrum as you would expect at a luxury hotel.

Our excellent waiter matched the first few courses with an Livio Felluga Sauvignon Blanc – I don’t normally go for Sauv Blancs at all, but boring old Cloudy Bay this was not. A Lamo Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot gave us a sublime taste of the very reason we were here to explore the wines of the Veneto. We finished with a lovely Recioto over dolce. Although the room was quiet on a Monday night, I recommend the restaurant for elegant and delicious creative takes on traditional fare and excellent service.

For us, it was an easy toddle back to our room at the Hilton Molino Stucky, created from the restoration of 13 buildings that constituted a 19th century flour mill. It’s gigantic (we got lost on our way to our room a few times!) and some towers feel like being inside a castle. Situated on Guidecca Island, the view across the canal when you pull back the curtains in the morning is one of the hotel’s main draw cards. Check out the view from our hotel room in the headline shot above.

You can then take a free shuttle ferry across to San Marco in under 15 minutes. The trade off for the fabulous views is the inconvenience of having to time your comings and goings with the ferries, which leave for San Marco every hour or for Zattere every half hour, but it has to be said that travelling by boat in Venice feels rather glamorous so it’s hard to begrudge it. The last ferry returns to the hotel after midnight.

The Hilton Molino Stucky - a former flour mill
(This photo was provided by the hotel)

Each room has a king sized bed (or 2 singles), satellite TV, high speed wireless (not free) and elegant, sumptuous bathrooms and fittings.

The view from the Skyline rooftop bar and the rooftop pool (yes I’m collecting them) across the canal towards San Marco Square is also fabulous – the perfect spot for an Aperol spritz at sundown (Venice is its birthplace afterall). There’s also a gym, spa, Turkish bath, jacuzzi and sauna.

Guidecca consists of 8 gondola shaped interconnected islets, and is a quiet escape from the tourist hordes. It houses many grand historical villas, avant-garde lofts and warehouses that now host art exhibitions and other cultural activities. Probably not worth a special trip if you’re staying in the throng, but a lovely place to stroll around, and worth a stop at Harry’s Dolce just a few minutes along the canal from the hotel.

Here are some more snap shots of Venice for inspiration:

This is what the late night taxi home looks like in Venice...

A Venetian petrol station

Another grand canal

Peak hour

From Venice, we head towards the vineyards outside Verona for some serious guzzling. Stay tuned.

Greedy Diva was a guest of Hilton Molino Stucky. Rates vary and you can get some great deals - the standard rates at this time of year are around €169 per double which is great value for this quality in Venice - and with those views.


  1. Wow, stunning photos. I especially love the first one!

  2. I do love Venice, lovely photos bring it back. We've been twice for 5/ 6 nights respectively but I'd like to go back for another week soon.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  3. Your photos brings back so many good and romantic memories of Venice. I especially love the pasta you had that came wrapped in foil!

  4. Stunning, stunning photos. Bringing back such fantastic memories.

  5. Fabulous post although I do agree that there is nothing really like Polpo in Venice I remember when I was there I could not see any bacaros!

  6. Great tips, as always, though I would've loved hearing how Corte Sconta is doing.

    Like you, Jon and I have really enjoyed the Hilton Stucky Molino the two times we've stayed there. Both times, we got an amazingly-low price using Priceline, and staying on Giudecca turned out to be a nice escape. (And I agree, the rooftop pool is pretty fab, too). Next time, thanks to your post, I'll try Aromi there.

    Isn't it nice that you can be the most experienced traveler in the world and still love Venice?

  7. An American in London - we were really hoping to get to Corte Sconta and yes, the Hilton has some amazing deals - it can be great value. I think I load Venice even more this time than on my last visit - perhaps it keeps getting better.


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