So you're considering living the dream with a destination wedding or honeymoon in one of the most romantic countries in the world; Italy. With a choice of regions before you, sometimes it can be difficult to decide which is the best area for one of the most memorable times of your life, but we're here to help. We recently joined the Belmond Group alongside a group of wedding planners from Italy, the USA and the UK to explore a collection of venues in Venice, Florence, Parma and Portofino (whilst getting a taste of Italy along the way). Here's what we discovered...
With the Grand Canal as your feature piece what more could you ask for! Many of the hotels in Venice were once palaces or haunts of high society and they've happily embraced their historical name and architecture in their prime locations in the Floating City.
Overlooking the iconic Gritti Palace is the Sina Centurion Palace, a neo-Gothic 19th century building decorated in bold colours throughout, giving a modern twist on its traditional Venetian style. With just 50 rooms available, this hotel gets booked up very quickly, particularly during their peak months of May, June and September, with many guests choosing to come back year after year, especially to celebrate anniversaries. Wedding receptions can take place in the White Restaurant with its private waterside deck, in one of the two dining rooms with tall arched windows overlooking the Canal, or in the pretty courtyard garden - our favourite option. The Sina Centurion Palace offers a much quieter location, situated on the opposite bank to St Mark's Square but still within easy reach of water taxis and, of course, the iconic gondola trips. You can enjoy a day exploring the streets of Venice before heading away from the hustle and bustle for a relaxing nights stay.
Some hotels on the Venetian shoreline are only accessible by water taxi - who'd have thought you'd be arriving like James Bond! The JW Marriott has an incredible rooftop terrace, perfect for sunset champagne and cocktails, as well as an expansive olive grove, with room for marquees to accommodate up to 1600 guests for weddings. They also have a non-consecrated church in the grounds with no sound restrictions - a must if you plan on partying until dawn! Alternatively, why not consider the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, just a 5 minute water taxi ride from St Mark's Square. They have some exquisite ballrooms to hire as well as pretty gardens and a large swimming pool - a great opportunity for you to relax in each others company (and get some incredible photos!)
For a truly grand stay, head to the Aman Venice hotel. The marble floors and walls really are incredible, and the private gardens are the icing on the cake. We've never seen so much Venetian detail as we did in the Aman's dining room, from the intricate mirrors to the dazzling chandeliers.
One of the newest hotels we visited was the Palazzo Venart, opened in 2016 and with only 18 rooms and suites, all individually styled! It really echoes a feel of intimacy and privacy that we love, especially for a romantic honeymoon spot. For weddings, this gives you the opportunity to host a smaller celebration with your nearest and dearest without feeling overwhelmed, taking advantage of the cosy piano lounge and library or the private courtyard leading off of the ground floor restaurant.
Luxury lies at the Westin Europa & Regina, where you can order in-room spa treatments from the privacy of your own balcony. This hotel could not be closer to St Mark's Square and wedding planners and couples love its prime location. As it's also at the very end of the Grand Canal it doesn't have the same boat restrictions the other hotels do, allowing boats of up to 100 people to arrive at the private dock at a time, instead of the restricted 12. They also host around 100 weddings a year, so they really do know their stuff!
The final place we visited in Venice was the Gritti Palace. It's quite a favourite amongst the elite, showcasing its historical past with 18th century furnishings and original floors and ceilings. All 82 rooms and suites were refurbished in 2013 with marble from around the world. There's an incredible rooftop terrace with views across Venice, but only 9 of the rooms offer a Grand Canal view - bag yourself a celebrity corner suite if you can.
For more tips on great things to do during your stay in Venice, take a look at our Visiting Venice honeymoon guide.
After a thorough explore of what Venice had to offer, we were whisked off to the Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence.
This former monastery sits within perfectly manicured gardens overlooking the Florence skyline - the perfect place to relax! With lots of Renaissance styling throughout, visitors are often blown away by its unique nature. Weddings can take place outside beneath the lemon trees, in the 15th century Cenacolo room, which boasts a fresco of the Last Supper, or in the banqueting suite which leads on to the gardens, offering an uninterrupted view of the city. There are 45 rooms and suites available, as well as 32 additional rooms in the adjacent Villa Fiesole. Or why not book yourself the private villa - perfect for the newlyweds to enjoy some time together.
Belmond managed to outdo themselves with each new hotel they took us to, and they did not disappoint in Portofino. Tucked into the cliffside high above the bay is the Belmond Splendido, with stunning gardens and terraces giving incredible views of the town and bays - an obvious choice for elegant weddings. A short walk down the hillside takes you into Portofino itself, where in pride of place on the water's edge sits the Belmond Splendido Mare, perfect for smaller celebrations or romantic dinners. Belmond also own their own speedboat, giving you the chance to explore some of the Portofino bays that are only accessible by boat or foot.
Heading out of Portofino you'll find La Cervara, a former abbey and now one of the most exquisite places to stay.
With some amazing views to match their beautiful gardens and Italian decor, you'll feel like royalty stepping through these doors. They also offer exclusive use for weddings giving you ultimate privacy for you and your guests.
To find out more about each of these Italian venues and to see what we got up to on our trip, take a look at our Taste of Italy collection online.