Destination: Italy: Venice
Aman Canal Grande
Vibe: Exclusive, opulent, home-away-from-home
At a glance: The twenty-four room Aman Canal Grande is not just a hotel. It is a piece of art, a museum, a restored palazzo and – above all else – a home.
Review: In discreet signature Aman fashion, the Singapore-based group debuted its first European urban hotel in Venice this summer, choosing perhaps the most logistically challenging of the region’s cities. Housed in an unassuming and unmarked 16th century palazzo, the Aman Canal Grande is located in the San Polo sestiere, a seven-minute boat ride and twenty-minute walk from Piazza San Marco. A genuine hideaway as compared to its other five-star competitors, the Aman is an exclusive retreat where guests can enjoy the pleasures of Venice away from its touristy core. And, just like its opening, everything about the new property appears subtle… until you walk inside.
Then… cue the white doves. Your riva docks and you’re led into a hallowed white reception hall. A 16th-century battleship lantern hangs thirty feet above, a vestige left by the Coccina family, wealthy traders who, with the help of architect Giangiacomo Dei Grigi, built the palazzo in 1550. Shiny marble busts of the estate’s most recent proprietors surround you on all sides, a veritable who’s who of the powerful Papadopolis, Corfu natives who married into Venetian nobility in the mid-1800s. One floor up, an ornate vestibule leads to the piano nobile. Gilded in gargantuan gold mirrors, Cesare Rotta frescoes and original chandeliers, the living room is decorator Michaelangelo Guggenheim’s ode to the Rococo style, while the Italian and Thai dining rooms boast original 18th century Tiepolo-painted ceilings. (The Tiepolo family bought the palazzo from the Coccinas in 1718). The fourth floor Salon offers even more of Tiepolo’s works and a neo-baroque library with an ancient chandelier and lacquered leather wallpaper from Cordoba, Spain. Yet amidst the opulence, Aman’s contemporary aesthetic pervades throughout with sleek furnishings like chairs, tables and couches set in neutral tones and metallics. Somehow, it works.
The property’s twenty-four guest accommodations continue the dichotomy, offering a blend between the palazzo’s historic bones and contemporary accoutrements (picture white leather wingback beds and chrome side tables). Rooms with garden views come with original details such as painted ceilings or antiques, while suites offer stunning views of the Grand Canal, but with fewer historic pieces. The hotel’s five signature suites are worth the splurge, being most true to their original form, with 16th- 18th- and 19th- century art, architectural detail and furnishings throughout. And in true Aman fashion, bathrooms are nearly as large as bedrooms with separated double vanities, free standing oval tubs and rainfall showers. Bath amenities are scented amber and lavender and serve a cause: women rehabilitating in a local prison make them exclusively for the hotel.
The palazzo boasts two gardens – a rarity in the city – with one directly facing the Grand Canal, home to the hotel’s Japanese restaurant. A tranquil three-treatment-room spa center is hidden on the mid-level third floor, while a small, but perfectly adequate gym can be found on the fourth. Finally, the roof terrace offers the ideal location for an aperitivo overlooking the city at sunset.
The Aman Canal Grande is not just a hotel. It is a piece of art, a museum, a restored palazzo and – above all else – a home. Despite its pomp and grandeur, its rooms and halls invite guests to walk in their slippers, keep their doors unlocked at night and take a moment to revel in the glory that is Venice – a private viewing that is seldom seen.
Who should stay: Mostly couples who enjoy being off-the beaten path in an intimate, historic, palazzo and don’t mind the shuttle to and from San Marco. Families only if they are considering a suite or an apartment – a unit of multiple rooms and/or suites – though most are better served at the Hotel Cipriani or Gritti Palace.
- The discreet San Polo location, a residential neighborhood with quaint restaurants.
- The public spaces, a combination of grand living areas, nooks, terraces and gardens overlooking the Grand Canal
- The five Signature Suites holding much of the 16th-century historic detail of the original palazzo.
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.”
For a resort-like getaway, book at this iconic hotel on the island of Giudecca, a five-minute boat ride from San Marco. With its ninety-five beautifully appointed rooms and suites, a spa offering La Prairie treatments, lushly planted gardens and an Olympic-size swimming pool, the Cipriani is as luxurious as it gets in Venice. All rooms are traditional in decor and were designed with comfort in mind. At 183 square feet, the standard rooms are smaller than the suites but still roomy, with views of the hotel’s garden.
The Cipriani has long prided itself on creating one-of-a-kind suites, most notably the two-room Dogeressa, with four Gothic-style windows that perfectly frame perspectives of St. Mark’s Cathedral. The sumptuous Palladio Suite, which can be booked as a one- or two-bedroom, faces the lagoon and has a private heated plunge pool overlooking the water. When you’re relaxing in the living room, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows, you feel as if you were floating on your own Venetian ship. Families might consider a room in the hotel’s Palazzo Vendramin, whose suites come with kitchenettes.
Indagare Tip: During the siesta time, typically from 2:00-4:00pm, parents are kindly asked not to take their children to the swimming pool. The hotel offers a seasonal Smile Club, typically from 11:00am to 5:00pm, which provides a supervised playtime for children to come and enjoy some time together.
Editor’s Note: The world-famous 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. Another favorite was the Executive Junior Suite category, which offers a balcony overlooking the Lagoon. ~BH MAY 2012
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