This October, myself and glassmaker Scarlet Leonard went on a very special trip to Venice where the inspiration for my jewellery brand Brush Jewellery first began. I was delighted to be staying at my favourite hotel of choice in Venice, the five-star Hilton Molino Stucky Venice.
We arrived at the hotel where we were greeted by the Hilton team as if we were family. This is how the Hilton like to treat returning guests; the hotel should feel like a home away from home during a stay. That warmth and hospitality is also representative of the Venetian people and culture. Venice, a city that draws tourists from all over the world, has mastered the art of welcoming and sharing its delights with foreigners.
The Hilton Venice is set in a several hundred year old industrial bulding that was brought to life by empressario Giovanny Stucky as a flour mill in the 1880s. Acquired by the Hilton Group in 2007, the site was renovated into a 379 room hotel and particular care was taken to maintain the site's original features and celebrate its Gothic revival architecture.
The industrial history is echoed in the hotel's fresh interior design theme with nods to its former life as an industrial powerhouse and modern touches to take it into the 21st century. The hotel feels both modern and timeless and the walls have absorbed all the rich history of its past making it a really interesting and unique place to stay in Venice.
To appreciate the unobstructed view of the grand canal, we were checked into an executive suite on the 6th floor, just below the hotel's terrace and bar. We had a beautiful view of the canal from the spacious bedroom with en-suite marble bathroom and Scarlet was so happy to find a gift of a book by master glassmakers Venier.
We enjoyed unlimited access to the private executive lounge, which keeps guests served with drinks and snacks all day long. It was the perfect place for an afternoon coffee and macaron after a busy morning of sightseeing on main Venice island.
On our first day, I showed Scarlet around the hotel as it was her first time staying at the Hilton Venice. We started off the evening with a spa session where we spent two hours in the jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, relaxing and recovering from our journey over from the UK and the south of France.
Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we got dressed up and headed up to the 7th floor for cocktails at Skyline rooftop bar. We were greeted by a lovely barman who took special care in explaining the menu to us and made it his priority to find out what we liked to drink to match us with the perfect cocktail. I opted for the Diva - a champagne based cocktail with Nardini Bitter Chinato and contrasting floral notes. Scarlet asked the barman to decide so he chose the cocktail to reflect the beautiful sunset you see from the rooftop of Skyline - the Red Sky with touches of Campari, Cointreau and vodka mandarin.
Following our delicious cocktails, we headed back down to the ground floor for our dinner reservation at Bacaromi. Rocco, the head waiter who has been with the hotel for over a decade, is an asset to the team and welcomed us to our table in his serious yet charming manner. It was a pleasure to see him again after we met during my first stay. Rocco presented a pre-prepared menu for Scarlet which took into account her food intolerances which we were really impressed with and didn't expect but again, it just goes to show the level of attention to detail at the Hilton. I opted for a four course fish menu after having had a taste for cicchetti at a bar on the main island. Cicchetti are to Italians what tapas are to the Spanish. Served at bàcari, these finger foods come in the form of crostini, polpette, paninis and tramezzini and are to be enjoyed alongside a glass of Italian red or white wine. Popular with the locals, these inexpensive snacks will delight you in their simplicity and flavour.
One of the main motivations for this trip was to introduce Scarlet, Brush Jewellery's glassmaker, to Venice and Murano glass. Scarlet works with borosilicate glass as a lampwork artist which is quite different to glassblowing using soft murano glass however, she was keen to have a go at it herself. The Hilton arranged a private trip for us to Vetreria Venier, home to one of Venice's masterglassmaker workshops.
We arrived at Venier in Murano by water taxi. We stepped onto the red carpetted pontoon and walked straight into the hustle and bustle of the workshop - a hub of activity with several master glassmakers at work transporting molten glass from furnace to station. After an impressive demonstration from Sandro who sculpted a majestic stallion in under five minutes, it was time for Scarlet to have a go.
With the help of Sandro, Scarlet's mission was to make a murano vessel rolled in frit; small fragments of colourful glass that create a distinctive pattern in the object. The privilege, to blow a piece of glassware in one of Venice's most prestigious glass establishments, was given to Scarlet due to her knowledge and experience in working with glass. Sandro and his team put their trust in her ability and I sat and watched the magic unfold; it was truly an emotional scene to witness the excitement Scarlet felt at making her first piece of blown glass in Murano. Special thanks to Sandro and Venier for this opportunity.
We spent the rest of the day visiting Murano and noticing all the beautiful pieces of glass. Scarlet could tell from a mile away which type of glass and what techniques were being used and it was not surprising to find that some of our favourite pieces were in fact made using borosilicate glass - the type of glass that Scarlet works with. We particularly loved Cesare Toffolo's work of fine hexagonal glasses in transparent candy like colours which looked too pretty to drink from. At very reasonable prices, I wish I had bought a set of six but Scarlet assured me that she would be practicing and making her own very soon. We stopped at glass tool maker Carlo Donà where we met Roberto, the founder's grandson and he advised Scarlet on which tools to add to her collection.
As our last evening was coming to a close, we felt we had captured the best of Venice during our stay at Hilton Molino Stucky Venice. We returned to the hotel and it was time to pack our bags and begin the return journey home. Not only was Scarlet heading back to the UK with a piece of Venetian handblown glass, she was returning with her heart full of memories and a new sense of excitement for her craft. Watch this space to see what new designs come out of her workshop for Brush Jewellery!
Thank you Hilton Venice for an unforgettable trip.
Hilton Molino Stucky Venice Gallery
Rates start from €200 per night based on double occupancy with breakfast included
Giudecca, 810, 30133 Venezia VE, Italy
By train - Day 1 Eurostar London - Paris , Day 2 TGV Paris - Milan, Italia Rail Milan - Venice
For train travel around Europe, an Interrail pass can be a good solution. Seat 61 is a great resource providing up to date info on train travel around Europe. From Milan it is also possible to reach Lake Como in less than 1 hour and the Cinque Terre in 2.5hrs.
By plane - Fly into Venice Marco Polo airport.
Vetreria Venier - for glass workshop tours | Contact Hilton Venice to organise a visit
Brush Jewellery - Shop Harriet & Scarlet's handmade glass collections
Scarlet Impressions - Shop Scarlet's own handmade glass work