Venice Travel Guide
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#Thatmomentwhen one of the most famous hotels in Europe gets sold and you start panicking that it’s the end of an era until you realize that everything’s going to be just fine and it’s just the owners, not the management, that are swapping keys.
That panic was all over us earlier this morning when saw a press release with the words “Gritti Palace” and “closing” in the headline. Could one of Starwood’s two flagship properties in Venice really be leaving the Luxury Collection?
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This time last year, the San Clemente Palace was a shuttered, slightly battered grand old hotel in Venice, quietly wasting away on her own private island.
How things have changed – because after being picked up by Starwood and promptly closed for €25m of renovations, the St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace is now open. Doesn’t she look better?
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This view is not what it seems
It seems like only yesterday that we were freaking out over the amazing renderings of the JW Marriott Venice, which, at that point, was soon to open on its own private island in the Venetian lagoon. The major freak-out point? Those dreamy views from the rooftop pool, overlooking St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, we were in Venice, saw where the JW Marriott is located, and got a hold on the view situation. And you know what?
It is, let’s say generously, a rather free interpretation of the actual view.
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Walter Bolzonella at the Cipriani
Having a drink in one iconic hotel is good enough. Having a drink in one iconic hotel that’s mixed by the staff from another iconic hotel – even better. Having a drink from one iconic hotel that’s made by the staff of another iconic hotel while on the most iconic train on the planet? We need a drink. Preferably one made by the Ritz Paris bartenders, but made at the Belmond Cipriani in Venice, or served on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
In a collaboration between the two hotels and the famous train, the head bartenders of the Ritz Paris (Colin Field - who, of course, is currently homeless, since the hotel is closed, and is going around the world staging pop-ups) and the Cipriani (Walter Bolzonella) will run a pop-up bar at the Cip from 9-15 April.
But wait! It gets better than that.
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So when we were in town last week, we couldn’t help popping over to get a peek of both of them from the rooftop bar at the Hilton Molino Stucky.
WiFi options from a ferry 10 minutes away from St Mark's Square
Fast, free WiFi is, in our opinion, a basic hotel right. Mobile WiFi? That’s an amazing added extra. WiFi that’s so strong the signal stretches across the city? Monsieur, now you are really spoiling us.
* Out around the Biennale/Arsenale, coming in on the ferry from the airport (about a 20-minute walk from the Danieli);
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If you stay at the Bauer Il Palazzo, one of the four Bauer hotels (owned by a local family) in Venice, you’ll have breakfast at Settimo Cielo, a seventh floor rooftop terrace with sweeping, weep-inducing views of La Serenissima taking in everything from St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Riva degli Schiavoni to the Grand Canal, the Santa Maria della Salute church on Dorsoduro, the island of Giudecca, the islands of the forthcoming St Regis and JW Marriott, and the Lido, stretching out in the distance.
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That’s what’s on the menu this spring in Italy, where both Starwood (by way of St. Regis) and Marriott (by way of JW Marriott) are entering the Venetian hotel scene with a splash (ha!) on Isola di San Clemente and Isola delle Rose, respectively. But who will be victorious? Let’s look at what each brings to their corner before things get real around March / April time.
We’ve established they're fighting for your attention in the same category: private islands, ensuring the ultimate Venice experience of hopping on a complimentary shuttle when you want to be whisked away from the crowds on San Marco. We’ve known for a while that the JW Marriott would be opening in March, but the St. Regis is now confirmed for the month after. If all goes as planned, then Marriott will have a (minor) head start.
Last time we talked about the JW Marriott Venice, we were getting overly excited about the infinity pool overlooking Piazza San Marco. Ready for more excitement? Because we have more news.
First piece of exciting news: the project is being overseen by Matteo Thun, he of Hotel Missoni (RIP) fame. There will now be 266 rooms (instead of 230), furnished with locally made materials: bricks, glass and tiles.
Second piece of exciting news: this isn’t just a private island hotel, it’s a private island with 16 acres of grounds. These will be landscaped with gardens, olive groves, “fruit arbours” and vegetable plots. There will now be four restaurants, five bars and – third piece of exciting news – a cooking school and wine academy.
We feel so much better now! Forget the disappointing images from inside St. Regis San Clemente Palace in Venice; we finally have some renderings that show what the hotel will look like following its €25 million renovation.
Gone are the golden-hued walls, the dark wood, and, most importantly, that wonky bed skirt. Instead, we have much lighter décor, a purely white bed, a beautiful coffee table, and a few pops of blue in the furniture and pillow. The Grand Deluxe room above has a low headboard and statement mirror, while the one below goes for something with a bit more flourish and replaces the blue accents with green.
UPDATE, 9.30.14:The wedding was held at the Aman Canal Grande with a brunch to celebrate the couple the following day at the Belmond. As you were.
Lately, our issues with the water world city that is Venice, Italy have been centered around lackluster hotel design and obscene prices. But when you're George Clooney on the eve of your nuptials, none of that even enters your mind. Or so we imagine.
Clooney and his betrothed, Amal Allamuddin, are set to marry this weekend in Venice and according to the Telegraph UK, speculation about where the couple will marry is in "overdrive." Here's the top contender for the wedding site:
We highlighted both the rooms at Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and St. Regis San Clemente Palace Venice recently as examples of luxury hotels that failed to inspire with their design. The Waldorf landed on a palette of browns that escapes us and the St. Regis didn’t look like we’d expect it after a €25 million do-over.
Turns out we weren’t wrong to be disappointed: while the Venetian island resort has joined Starwood under the St. Regis brand earlier this year, the closure period that will see those €25 million making a splash starts this October and lasts until spring 2015.