In Venice, the sidewalks almost feel like an afterthought — narrow and winding, leading even skilled navigators in frustrating loops. To travel by water is to see the northern Italian city the way it’s meant to be seen.
Riding a vaporetto, or public ferry, comes with about as much glamour as a ride on a New York City bus, however, and gondola and water taxi rides don't come cheap. The best way to score an extravagant-feeling boat ride through the lagoon free of charge is to visit the hotels that sit on the smaller surrounding islands.
Venice is made up of 118 tiny islands in total, and hotels like the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, on Giudecca island, and San Clemente Palace Kempinski, on the private island of San Clemente, have long been offering complementary shuttle service to and from Piazza San Marco, the city's most famous square.
But the newest must-visit private island destination in town is the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa rooftop, complete with a swimming pool overlooking the lagoon, a bar perfect for a sunset aperitivo, and Sagra, a restaurant serving local seafood and pasta dishes for lunch and dinner.
If you're not staying in one of the hotel's garden- or lagoon-view rooms or in one of its private pool suites, just head to its pier near Piazza San Marco (in front of the Royal Gardens) before sunset and watch the city's hustle and bustle fade in the distance as you glide away on its complementary boat service to Isola delle Rose.
Then grab an Aperol spritz and some cicchetti (snacks to share) and watch the sun set over the lagoon before sitting down for a leisurely meal under the twinkling lights. Pigeon- and tourist-filled San Marco and its crowded trattorias will feel a world away.
If you're feeling weary after a long day of travel, you might even want to start with a visit to the GOCO Spa, open to both hotel guests and daytrippers by appointment.
The spa offers lagoon views of its own, plus a steam room, indoor pool, and treatments ranging from body wraps and beauty services to massage therapy.