In the spirit of last year’s Fifty Going to Florence, Anton San Diego and friends take a dazzling tour of the otherworldly beauty of Venice


It was a trip six months in the making. Following our sojourn to Florence in the spring of 2016 as a collective way of celebrating our 50th year, my friends and I wondered among ourselves: where do we go next? For most of us who have been friends for the better part of four decades (Oh, those memorable days at the ISManila!), our trip to Florence had been one of many firsts. It was our first time to travel together and also the first time some of us travelled to Italy sans partners or family. However, it was also one of the most hectic tours any of us had ever been on: we seemed to be forever hustling from one place to another.


We wanted our next trip to have a more leisurely pace in a place that was as fascinating and as exciting as our previous destination. With that in mind, we knew it had to be a city famed for its otherworldly beauty: the crown jewel of the Italian North, Venice.

Viva la Villa

Our base of operations came about thanks to Laurie Jimenez-Westfall who discovered a charming Venetian villa through Views on Venice ( which enables travellers such as ourselves to experience Venetian life as locals even for a short time.


We were fortunate that the villa Laurie selected for us was owned by a wonderful couple—Filippo and Alessandra Gaggia. The Palazzo, situated by the Grand Canal and near the Accademia bridge, was what everyone had in mind—comfortable, spacious, elegant, with the Old World Italian splendour that we imagined.

It was the sort of trip that began with all of us arriving from different directions. Jojie Dingcong and Pops Fernandez drove in from Rome, while the bulk of us flew in from Manila on the 21st of April. I travelled with Laurie, Marianne Po, Kit Zobel, Rose Anne Belmonte, and Ina Ayala; Mela Gozon would arrive on a different flight the next day. When Patty Chilip and Ling Ling King arrived two days later, the group was finally complete.


The fun actually began as we boarded the water taxi that is one of the primary mode of public transportation in Venice; we laughingly took note that our luggage practically filled half the boat. Afterwards, we all settled in and scattered throughout the villa to rest up. I shared the top floor with Ling Ling and Patty which was perfect as we all preferred a more leisurely start of the day with a light repast of fruit and yogurt as opposed to the more rambunctious bunch downstairs. Noticeably absent from our group was Lizette Cojuangco, who had important family matters to attend to, but said not to give up her slot next year. This year we welcomed three lovely friends Rose Anne, Patty, and Ling Ling who all made this dream trip, extra special and memorable.

Photos: courtesy of Kit Zobel, Anton San Diego, Mela Gozon, and Pops Fernandez

Read the full story in the July 2017 edition of Philippine Tatler. Grab a copy from any leading newsstand or bookstore or download it on your digital device via Magzter, Zinio, or Pressreader.

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