Destination: Italy: Venice
Bauer Il Palazzo
Among the last family-owned hotels in Venice and the only one run by a woman, the Bauer Il Palazzo offers a more authentic grand Venetian experience than any other property in the city. (Its sister hosteleries are the adjoining five-star Bauer Hotel, in a modern wing, which is popular with high-end group tours and the Palladio Hotel & Spa and Villa F, both on Guidecca.)
Il Palazzo occupies a gorgeous 18th-century mansion on the Grand Canal facing Giudecca and the Santa Maria della Salute church. Francesca Bortolotto Possati, whose grandfather bought the hotel in the 1940s, has painstakingly incorporated all the modern luxuries that today’s traveler expects while preserving its Venetian heritage. The hallways have been painted with crushed marble using an ancient technique; the suites and rooms feature restored trompe l’oeil ceilings, silk wall coverings and curtains from venerable Venetian fabric houses and delicate gilt furniture. Even the bedside lamps have Murano-glass bases and traditional Venetian paper shades.
Of Il Palazzo’s seventy-two rooms, thirty-eight are suites, and each is unique and lusciously Venetian. Rubelli fabrics cover one-of-a-kind antiques, and hand-blown Murano chandeliers cast a soft glow. The best rooms are, of course, those with a view of the Grand Canal. The Royal Suite, on the second floor, has marble floors, frescoed ceilings, fabric-covered walls and antiques. Its balcony has some of the best front-row seats from which to observe life passing by on the canal. The Presidential Suite, on the top floor, is more modern in feeling and has a private wraparound terrace that looks out towards the Giudecca. This is Old World elegance in all its glory, which modern hipsters may not relate to. However, those with refined taste and an appreciation of authentic historic surroundings, such as actor Jeremy Irons, Sting and actress Catherine Deneuve, make this their home in Venice. In fact, the majority of Il Palazzo’s guests are repeat visitors who, once they experience its level of service, wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else in town.
Indagare Tip: Room No. 106 faces the Grand Canal and has glorious painted ceilings.
Editor’s Note: Travelers looking to dip their toe into old-world Venetian glamour may choose from more contemporary rooms on floors 2-8 in Il Palazzo’s side-annex. While still true to the property’s Baroque styling, many of these rooms have parquet floors, mirrored furniture, balconies or terraces, for a vibe that is slightly closer to Bauer’s Art Deco Hotel next door. ~BH April 2012
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
This luxury palazzo hotel, which opened in 2008, boasts so many works of priceless art that some guide books list it as a museum. And if they are not too busy, the lovely staff will lead interested visitors to view the grand 18th-century staircase, created by Venetian architect Andrea Tirali and with stunning frescoes by Pietro Longhi, and show them the first-story salon adorned in detailed stucco work and large canvases by Andrea Urbani. Of course, if you stay at this stunning forty-two-room hotel, you can have afternoon tea within this backdrop, as well as find yourself in your own private room clad in centuries-old frescoes and art work.
Literally next door to the Ca d’Oro museum, the Ca’ Sagredo faces the Grand Canal and is a masterpiece of a renovation (which may be why it has already become the place for foreigners who have bought their own palazzos or piano nobile apartments to stay while doing their renovation work). The building dates from the 15th century and was enhanced through the centuries by many great artists. Antiques and the finest silks adorn the suites. The grandness of the place makes a stay here feel like an overnight in a museum, which will thrill some and leave others a bit cold. The hotel’s location near the Rialto Market at the top of the Grand Canal is a bit removed from the restaurants, shops and museums of San Marco and the Accademia. L’Alcova restaurant, on a lovely little terrace has an exclusive location (it’s the only restaurant terrace on this stretch of the Grand Canal), and the food gets good reviews from locals.
February 2013 saw the much-anticipated reopening of the Gritti Palace, part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, which was closed for extensive renovations since 2011. Hundreds of expert craftsmen were involved in bringing the legendary property back to its former glory, while updates to the rooms and suites introduced contemporary amenities. Rubelli fabrics accent the guest rooms, delicate Murano glassworks are featured throughout and the stunning terrazzo floors were painstakingly restored.
Every detail of the Gritti confirms the property’s noble heritage. The palazzo it occupies dates back to 1475 and was the successive home of the famous Pisani and Gritti families for hundreds of years before it was turned into a luxury hotel in 1895 (initially as an annex to the adjacent Grand Hotel). With an enviable location directly on the Grand Canal and a five-minute walk from Piazza San Marco, the grand dame hotel has now reclaimed its spot as one of Venice’s reigning properties. Current guests will agree with W. Somerset Maugham who wrote: “There are few things in life more pleasant than to sit on the terrace of the Gritti.”
Built in the 1940s, the 119-room Bauer Hotel perfectly blends its Art Deco roots with the traditional Venetian style of the 18th-century annex Il Palazzo. With an ideal location in the heart of the city’s most fashionable shopping street and a stone’s throw from San Marco Square, Bauer Hotel is an urban retreat, perfect for couples and families looking for a contemporary twist on the Bauer’s iconic grandeur. Authentic Deco furniture and embellishments harmoniously meet classic Rubelli and Bevilacqua fabrics (the same are also on view in Il Palazzo), and most rooms have picturesque views over the city. My favorite accommodations were adjoining Deluxe Rooms on the fifth floor with a yellow and purple color scene and a shared 200-square-foot terrace.
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