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Tomorrow, July 1, marks the 125th birthday of mystery writer extraordinaire, Agatha Christie. This grande dame, though, wrote more than mere mysteries; she wrote of exotic lands and places that she herself had explored and consequently served to whet the appetite of her readers for travel.
In 1934, Ms. Christie traveled from Venice to Istanbul on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, penning one of her finest stories, Murder on the Orient–Express, at the end of her journey while at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul (you knew there had to a hotel in here somewhere, right?).
To commemorate this grand journey, the chefs of the Belmond Hotel Cipriani (David Bisetto), the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah (Arif Kemal Dogan) and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (Christian Bodiguel) have come together to prepare a 1930s-themed feast on her big day.
Hotel Sales / Starwood Hotels / Luxury Collection Hotels / Venice Hotels / Historic Hotels / → All Tags
#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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Having seen its struggles, we were very excited when Rocco Forte talked about the promising future for his hotel group following a $95m cash injection from Italian investors, not in the least because of his goal to revive the Grand Tour of Italy and save the country’s economy in the process. There was talk of hotels in Venice, Milan, Naples, and Sicily, as well as others further afield to double Rocco Forte’s presence from its current ten hotels.
While we were expecting Venice to be announced first, given the “advanced stage of discussion” about a hotel there, further afield it is: number 11 will be the Assila Hotel and Residence, a development in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, opening this summer.
Above a rendering of the hotel, which will have 146 rooms, 62 suites, and 94 serviced apartments in what looks to be a dual-towered glass structure.
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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.
Remember when a stranger stopped you on the street and asked you the time, and you looked at your wristwatch? Now, we are more likely to look at our smartphones or tablets but at least we can revisit the watch as art at a new boutique hotel in Italy. Hotel L'Orologio Venice, aka Hotel L’O, celebrates the art of fine watchmaking.
Venice Hotels / Luxury Hotels / St. Regis Hotels / Starwood Hotels / JW Marriott Hotels / Marriott Hotels / Hotel News / Hotel Openings / → All Tags
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.