As the pale waters of the lagoon licked the sides of the speeding boat, it was easy to forget that only moments ago I was caught up in the pandemonium of St Mark’s Square.
Squinting in the heat of the early afternoon sun, I searched out the right jetty through a rainbow of bobbing, bundled-up umbrellas, held aloft by patient tour guides. I passed underneath the Starwood-emblazoned arch and onto the boat, immediately entering into a more peaceful, more elegant world.
Our path to the St Regis was not straightforward and as we zigzagged across the lagoon, I made several unsuccessful attempts at trying to identify our island destination (“is it that one? Is it THAT one?”). Finally the motors slowed as we pulled past a pontoon held firm by giant candy cane poles, the white stucco-fronted church I recognised from the pictures on the website gleaming in the sun.
Stepping off the boat, I was asked if I needed help with my luggage. Sadly, I was staying only one night and therefore had no need to take up the offer. I trailed up the path towards the peachy hued palace and into the cool and lofty reception. It was several minutes before my room was ready, but it was worth it — I’d been upgraded to a deluxe and was escorted there by the lovely woman who checked me in.
My room, which was on the second floor, faced out onto the gardens I had entered past. The bedroom wasn’t huge, but the bathroom was. I liked that there was an airy vestibule to enter through and to separate the two rooms. The bed and armchairs looked terribly inviting, but there was no time to enjoy them, for it being the very start of summer, I was starved of sunshine. I wanted to feel it grazing my bare skin, warming me right to bone.
I padded out across the lawn to the pool, picked a rolled towel off the top of a pyramid of rolled towels and settled myself on a sunlounger devoid of shade.
Despite my best intentions of writing and reading, I flung my sunglasses aside and succumbed to that delicious, dizzying sleep that only heat brings on. I waited until I could take it no longer before slipping into the languid water and performing several lazy laps.
Were it not for the lure of Venice across the water, the St Regis is the kind of hotel you’d never leave. There are slow games of tennis to be had, gardens to stroll round, awnings to perch under, views to be taken in. You’ll be unbothered and unhurried by both people and life; although once in a while a smartly clad member of staff will appear and offer to bring you a thing you might want.
Torn as I was, I dragged myself away from the Isola di San Clemente. A ten-minute joyride later I was back in Venice, which was now starting to glow in the changing early-evening light.
Italian breakfasts are notoriously terribile, so I braced myself the next morning for disappointment. I needn’t have; plump cherries and juicy watermelon were accompanied by flaky almond cake and miniature doughnuts — soft, sweet powdered puffs filled with vanilla cream. I embraced holiday mode, taking advantage of the prosecco, which I mingled with fresh orange juice. I sat out in one of several hotel courtyards nibbling smoked salmon in peace, before reestablishing my poolside position.
My request for a late checkout was received positively, and allowed me an extra two hours to lounge in the sun, before I returned to my room to refresh and regroup under the waterfall shower and grudgingly pack my bag. Wending my way back to reception through cavernous corridors, an idea stuck me. Before diving back into the hubbub of Venice, I would ponder the city from a distance. I lingered an hour longer on the terrace by the island’s church with a 10 euro glass of orange juice and my book.
Eventually the lure of spires and 3 euro prosecco became too much to resist. I knew that I must give up one transient love affair for another, more timeless one. Thanks to its lush, carefully manicured lawns, the grass is technically greener on San Clemente’s side of the lagoon, but the perspective that the St Regis provides on Venice only serves to heighten the city’s allure.
And so I crossed the waters one last time, to do the travelling things from which I really get my kicks: slipping off down shaded alleyways, traversing untouristed squares, nibbling cicchetti on the banks of canals against a soundtrack of Italian — and only Italian — voices.
Disclaimer: I stayed at the St. Regis on a business trip courtesy of Expedia (although not for this blog). As always, all views expressed in this piece are my own and are an honest and accurate representation of my experience.