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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.
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Next stop: Italy
While the rest of the world is courting millennials, Italy, apparently, is going after the budget market. According to a new report, budget accommodation is predicted to be the fastest growing sector globally for 2014-2018; and Italy – land of ridiculously lavish palace hotels – is playing catch up.
Swift on the heels of the Moxy launch in Milan, the Meininger group from Germany is planning an Italian invasion: from next year, they’ll be opening in Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome.
You may not have heard of Meininger before, but they bill themselves as a hotel-hostel fusion, have been in operation for 15 years, and currently have 16 hotels in 10 European cities: mostly in Germany and Austria, plus one each in Brussels, London and Amsterdam.
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.
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Verdura Resort in Sicily
We knew a couple of months ago that Rocco Forte was sniffing around Venice, but plans really are coming to fruition now. Last week, it was announced that Forte is getting a $95m cash injection from Italian investors (in return for 23 percent of the company) – which he’ll use to open hotels in Venice, Milan, Naples (YES) and Sicily.
It gets better. In an upbeat interview with Il Giornale, in which he says that luxury travel will save Italy's economy, Forte said this:
We want to create a network of uber-luxury hotels in Italy – one that’ll be capable of attracting travellers wanting to rediscover the Grand Tour, that was so tantalizing to the aristocrats of the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to Forte, they’re currently sifting through potential sites in Venice, Milan and Naples. He is also “convinced of the unexplored potential of Sicily” (where they already have one resort outside, Verdura, in Sciacca). Taormina or Siracuse are on the hitlist there. Paris, New York, Moscow and the Middle East are priorities after Italy.
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.
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Scouring around for information about the forthcoming JW Marriott Venice yesterday, we stumbled upon a rather exciting piece of news: Rocco Forte is planning to open a hotel in Venice.
According to La Nuova, RF himself said that Venice is “attractive” (no, really?), and that he’s looking for a property. The only problem is:
Venetian palazzos are small, and it’s difficult to find space for a 60-room property, which is what we’d like.
Simples, Rocco – buy an island.
That article is from 2012, so let’s hope they’re close to finding something by now. In the meantime, here are three other recent Venice openings (all 2013) that’d be worth a shot:
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The last time we heard anything about the JW Marriott Venice, it was March 2013 and it had an expected opening date of this year.
It was not to be. But the good news is that it’s now expecting to open in March 2015 – and the website is taking reservations from 12 March.
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Maybe the very du jour white sheets are a bit of a giveaway, but would you honestly think that this is a luxury hotel room less than four months old? We just can’t muster up any excitement for a design that strikes us already as dated and if anything seems intent on incorporating every shade of brown imaginable.
Brand-new the room is though, and you find it inside the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, a hotel we were very excited about when it opened in April, nearly a year late. The image is displayed both for a King Superior room and a Twin Deluxe Room, the latter seeming somewhat implausible, but a look on TripAdvisor at some traveller photos confirms this is very much their “contemporary opulence” look, as the hotel describes it. They’re not cheap either, with rates starting over $600 a night (that does include free Wifi).
We have a similar sense of disappointment when we look at what turned out to be true photos of the rooms at St. Regis San Clemente Palace; photos we dismissed two months ago as being generic placeholders.
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The Hotel Des Bains in its heyday
Che fortuna amici, che bella notizia. This is big news. Huge! Venice’s historic Hotel des Bains, the grande dame of the Lido that inspired Death in Venice, hosted a bajillion movie stars for the film festival, and was shuttered in 2010 and sentenced to be redeveloped as luxury apartments (vomit) – will most likely be refurbished into a hotel once more.
According to local paper La Nuova, the Des Bains and its sadsack teammate, the Excelsior, are no longer for sale. The owner? The Cassa Depositi e Prestiti – a government-owned company. Regent and Starwood are still battling it out to run the properties (Raffaele Costa is out), but whoever wins will be the operator, not the owner.
But most exciting of all is the news that it looks likely that the Des Bains will make a spectacular return. From La Nuova (our translation):
It seems probable that the Des Bains, after its refurbishment, will return to being exclusively a hotel, putting a stop to the project that would have transformed part of it into hotel-residences – as was the initial plan – because the market conditions and the convenience of taking it forward are no longer in existence.
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The Excelsior, up for sale
Last week we learned that one struggling Venice island hotel had finally had its prince come along, in the shape of St Regis, and it got us thinking: what’s happening with the grande dames of the Lido?
The glorious old Hotel des Bains – which was the setting for Death in Venice and, more recently, one of the venues of the Venice Film Festival – closed in 2010, to be redeveloped into luxury apartments within a year.
But in Venice a few months ago, we couldn’t help noticing that it was still a building site.
According to Il Sole 24 Ore, everything is up in the air. There’s some complicated real estate fund stuff going on, but basically Est Capital, which bought the properties off Starwood, has foundered, and they’ve been passed to Hines Sgr, which is mulling over the options.