Destination: Italy: Venice
Update Spring 2012
As any traveler who has fallen for the allure of Venice knows, La Serenissima is a city stuck in time. From the unparalleled beauty of its seascapes—more striking than any Canaletto—to the charming simplicity of its daily rituals, Venice reigns supreme in all its watery glory as a place that makes even the most jaded believe in time-travel. Where else can you open your eyes in an 18th-century palazzo and have your senses teased awake by the sounds of live opera and moody waves echoing in the street?
But while locals and longtime visitors insist that nothing ever changes (and most prefer it this way), insiders know that behind the crumbling, pastel-colored panoramas, there’s creative movement. Francesca Bortolotto Possati, the owner of the legendary Bauer hotel properties, is one stylish resident who has long been concerned with keeping Venice from turning into a museum. Possati’s belief, that in order to keep Venice alive one must bring its beauty into the future, has powered many of her hotel projects, including the most recent additions: The Conventino and Villa F.
The family-owned Bauer has an eclectic mix of luxury properties throughout Venice all of which I visited on a recent trip. There’s Baroque Il Palazzo, right on the Grand Canal, adjacent to Art Deco L’Hotel the monastic Palladio is on the Guidecca and sits within a lush, three-acre estate alongside newcomers Conventino and Villa F. Similarly themed, but at very different price points, the Conventino and Villa F are boutique enclaves that offer a contemporary twist on their more traditional sister properties.
Located on the opposite end of the Palladio’s grounds, the Conventino’s twenty-one rooms are unlike any I have seen in Venice. The aesthetic is fresh and organic, decorated in pastels (lilac, lime and sand) and outfitted with textured wallpaper, sisal rugs, blond woods and bamboo furniture. Accommodations are spacious and airy; the ones on the ground floor offer high ceilings and private patios, while the second floor is cozier with exposed wooden beams for an effect that is reminiscent of a Tuscan farmhouse.
Nearly adjacent to the Palladio sits the Villa F, a restored Renaissance palazzo fit for a noble family. Well-heeled travelers have the chance to live like a local in one of eleven unique and exquisitely decorated palatial residences. The villa is a showcase for Possati’s confident blend of past and contemporary styles. Guests will find original frescoes, Terrazzo floors and Rubelli, Donghia & Jesurum fabrics paired with wrought iron headboards, vintage mirroring and leather furniture. Effortlessly chic, the Villa F offers services to match. Each unit comes equipped with state-of-the art technology, sleekly designed kitchens and private butlers.
Especially in the late spring and summer, when the San Marco area is overrun with visitors, the Giudecca offers an unmatched sense of peace. The great privilege of space is most prominently showcased at one of my all-time favorite properties, the Cipriani, where I ended my recent trip.
A hotel whose name and reputation precedes it, the world-famous Hotel Cipriani is looking better than ever after undergoing four years of property renovations. Thanks to a reduction of rooms in the San Marco wing, accommodations are generally lighter and more spacious with larger windows, balconies and terraces. Parisian designer Michel Jounnet revamped fifty rooms and suites with modern touches while remaining true to their original concept. Highlights include fabrics by Fortuny & Rubelli, hand-made stuccos, and Murano glass lamps and chandeliers. I stayed in one of the new pool suites equipped with a lush private garden opening onto the hotel’s picture-perfect pool. The Cipriani’s evolution has only enhanced its rather intoxicating panache and signature je ne sais quoi that hooks guests from the get-go. Perfectly suited for both couples and families, the iconic Cipriani seems to get better with age.
There is one place where Venice has stayed unapologetically, wonderfully old-school: its culinary scene. There’s an abundance of dark-wood-paneled seafood restaurants where diners are greeted by shellfish arranged on massive silver platters, sit at formally set tables and decipher the menu by candlelight. Some of Indagare’s favorite old-world Venice dining options include:
Da Fiore (dinner)
Cip’s Club (lunch or dinner)
Il Quadri (dinner)
Alle Testiere (lunch or dinner)
But insiders who know where to look have uncovered eateries that offer a more modern menu and setting. If you’ve had your fill of the classics and are looking for where young and stylish Venetians dine on a casual evening, don’t miss:
Lineadombra (lunch and dinner)
Naranzaria (lunch or cocktails)
Osteria Enoteca San Marco (lunch and dinner)
Aqua Pazza (lunch and dinner)
Il Ridotto (dinner)
From the hidden corners of San Polo to the vistas of the Grand Canal, Venice once again captured my imagination on this trip—as it has on all my previous ones. As Henry James so poignantly wrote in The Italian Hours: “The mere use of one’s eyes in Venice is happiness enough, and generous observers find it hard to keep an account of their profits in this line. Everything the attention touches holds it…”
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