Sarah Langa Mackay
Sarah Langa Mackay

For Valentine's Day this year I got to visit Venice — the place that I think is the true “City of Love” — with the love of my life. Prior to arriving in Venice, however, my husband Jehan and I started our Italian journey in Bologna. We were in the region to attend an exclusive preview of the Ferrari 812 Superfast — the fastest Ferrari on the market — in the nearby town of Maranello.

We stayed in the Grand Hotel Majestic Gia Baglioni in Bologna. It’s a beautiful, classic boutique hotel that gave us a great taste of ancient Italy. It’s also centrally located, and we could walk everywhere we wanted to go to.

A visit to Maranello is really a great idea if you’re in Bologna. Anyone can book a tour of the Ferrari Factory and Museum and you can even hire a Ferrari for the day. My husband and I are both crazy about cars, and seeing the Ferrari 812 Superfast was quite an experience. This is a car that is all about speed (it reaches 340km/h), but it is good-looking, too.

In Bologna, we ate wonderful pasta. Our best meal was at Bottega del Café where I had the vegetarian pasta.

After the launch, we caught a high-speed train to Venice although, sadly, we arrived at night, so didn’t enjoy the dramatic experience of arriving in this water-logged city.

We loved Venice, although it’s definitely not a place for visitors who don’t like walking. If you don’t want to take a water taxi, you have to walk. The hotel we stayed at was a beautiful marriage of ancient and modern. The Aman Palazzo Papadopoli is a 490-year-old building that was a private residence until five years ago. The hotel has kept the art and the furniture, so it really feels as if you have moved into someone’s house, with all the authenticity of a historic residence, but the luxury of an Aman hotel.

In Venice we did lots of sightseeing, visited one of the islands, and ate more delicious pasta. I bought some really beautiful jewellery in Venice. Our favourite coffee shop was Trattoria alla Palazzina, and while the food was delicious, I really didn’t like Italian coffee. You can add as much milk as you like: it’s still too strong.

One night the concierge at the hotel arranged for us to attend a 16th century masquerade party, which was great fun. We even hired costumes for the occasion.

From Venice, we headed to Milan, where I needed to see some suppliers for my online boutique. I source designer fashion from the season just passed in Europe, just in time for the new South African season.

There is a company called Exclusive Fashion Tours that arranges bespoke fashion experiences in Milan and Florence, the fashion capitals of Italy. They organised a really good tour for me in Milan: I had told them I liked Celine, so they got me into the launch of a new Celine bag. Of course, I bought lots of clothes and shoes for myself in Milan, but I really was focusing on sourcing for my new boutique.

Find Sarah Langa Mackay’s online boutique at

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