Stuart and I had planned to spend our honeymoon in Venice, but a business crisis loomed just before our wedding, and there was no way we could afford either the money or the time for a Europe trip. Since then we’ve always wanted to go there but for one reason or another it hasn’t eventuated, so when Dior invited us to join them in Venice for the 20th Anniversary of Victoire de Castellane’s Haute Joaillerie collections, just after our own 20th wedding anniversary, it was clearly meant to be.
Before we even landed we were peering out the window of the plane, seeing the boat highways that led from the airport to the city. The lagoon is only a few feet deep in many places, so it’s critical that boats stay in the marked lanes to avoid running aground. Fun fact, this also led to the adoption of the stand up gondolier style of boating rather than the traditional seated English rowing style, as the height and forward facing stance was necessary to avoid hitting sand bars.
We had an action packed itinerary, visiting many local artisans who highlighted the craftsmanship Venice is famous for. spending time at the Fortuny fabric showroom and factory,
Ars Cenedese glass blowing furnace on Murano,
and meeting Paula, a lace maker on Burano who had been working at her craft for more than 50 years. Stuart and I bought this beautiful lace artwork that she had crafted from a photo of the local canal, which took her 3 months to do, the colored cotton making the work much more complicated than the traditional white lace.
The immaculate attention to detail Dior delivers in every experience ensured that each of these experiences, while incredible in their own right, were forming part of an overall story of showcasing commitment to craftsmanship by each of the ateliers. This all came together in a dinner held at Palazzo Labia, a beautiful baroque palace. It was also the scene of Le Bal oriental, or the Ball of the Century, back in 1951, which was attended by Christian Dior (he and Salvador Dali designed each others costumes).
We walked into the famous ballroom to discover a tableau of models dressed in custom designs by Maria Grazia Chiuri, wearing the latest jewellery collection by Victoire de Castellane.
Opening up off the ballroom were multiple dining rooms, each one decorated uniquely. The table covers were Fortuny fabrics, the glassware was from Murano, and the entire setting was just magical.
I’d had my own magical moment earlier that day when we viewed the jewellery collection at Palazzo Papadopoli, another beautiful Venetian Palace that is now the home of the Aman hotel (and the wedding location for George and Amal Clooney!). For the past 20 years we’ve joked about the unique location of Stuart’s proposal in the chocolate biscuit aisle of our local Coles supermarket – in his defence, he said he’d never asked anyone how they proposed, just congratulated them when they told him they were engaged, so was quite taken aback when he realised it was the first question people asked him after the event! He decided it was the perfect time and location for a makeover, so I found myself getting re-proposed to, with a very beautiful ring, and an audience of our Dior family to witness and capture the moment for Instagram!
I was a little nervous before the trip that I’d built up my expectations to a point where the reality can’t deliver on them, but I can honestly say Venice was even better than I’d hoped, and it definitely won’t be 20 years before our next visit!