You only have to mention the word Venice and a wonderful tapestry of images fills your mind. This city offers an exquisite taste of historic grandeur, artistic wealth, drama, mystery and a large dash of romance. If Venice isn’t on your bucket list, it absolutely should be.
Having travelled to Venice many times in my twenties, working with the Venice Simplon Orient Express, I thought I had ticked this particular box. But given the opportunity to visit again, I was keen to see how this magical place had evolved.
Of course, the only real way to arrive in Venice is by private water taxi – a moment worth its price-tag. You meander through the canals, absorbing the unique atmosphere and beauty of the Venetian buildings that wrap around you, until you meet the Grand Canal and Venice opens up in all of her glory.
We arrived in the shadow of the majestic Salute Church to the exquisite Ca Maria Adele, a bijoux boutique hotel that has been ingeniously crafted from the original building that housed salt suppliers in the 1500s.
This beautiful hotel, owned and run by two brothers, is located in the heart of Venice’s tranquil art quarter, yet only a 10-minute walk from Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica. The view across the Grand Canal to St Mark’s Square at night is breath-taking.
Ca Maria Adele is historic Venice with a modern twist: Murano chandeliers, flock wallpaper and heavy damask fabrics, oozing Venetian style. But the brothers have added a quirkiness with African wood, polished concrete, giving it a relaxed, bohemian atmosphere that adds an undeniable modernity. No surprise this hotel has won a string of awards – and rightly so.
All the bedrooms and suites are individually styled and every last detail has been considered to make your stay a precious experience. The service is attentive and highly-personal, yet subtle. The passion of the brothers to exceed expectation is met at every turn.
Waking each morning to the bells of Salute is magical, as is sipping prosecco on the roof terrace. We walked our feet off visiting churches, basilicas and galleries, and listened intently to story after story of the astonishing history of this city and its acclaimed inhabitants. We also took time for an obligatory Bellini at Harrys Bar!
Whilst Venice will always be proud of its rich heritage, it’s refreshing to see some additions setting a new tone, such as the Peggy Guggeneim museum, as well as swarm of contemporary bars and restaurants, art galleries and fashion designers that are blending the foundations of Venice with a contemporary feel. Amongst this, one unexpected new arrival is the highly-praised Aman group, known for their seven-star resorts in less-urban areas of the world. So it’s no surprise that the property is located at arguably the best address in the city.
The 24-bedroom Aman Grand Canal sits centre-stage on the Grand Canal in San Polo, the place to see and been seen for centuries, and just steps away from the famous Rialto.
The sixteenth-century palace, known as the Palazzo Papadopoli, and one of only eight palazzo monunmentali in Venice, has been owned by noble aristocratic families for centuries. And whilst its current owners are still discreetly in residence, this exquisite palace is now open to guests for the first time in its history.
Notably, the early guestlist included George Clooney, who enjoyed his wedding party here with Amal and the glitterati – the perfect place for contemporary nobility to celebrate.
This grand palazzo offers oodles of the most stunning features: immaculate private gardens, a cavernous hall with original frescos, a trompe l’oeil grand staircase that leads to the opulent Piano Nobile Lounge and rococo ballroom. Contemporary furnishings mix with sumptuous chandeliers, Rubelli silk wall coverings and burnished mirrors, not to mention an original ceiling painting by Tiepolo in the Alocova Suite. That said, Aman Grand Canal retains a warmth, as if you’re personal guests of this private house.
Lunch was equally impressive, served in the Piano Nobile Lounge, overlooking the Grand Canal, we sat and enjoyed the speciality dishes including pea veloute and saffron risotto, whilst watching a historic dragon-boat race drift past outside.
I will never tire of this mesmerising city – especially now there is a more contemporary face to a place I thought I already knew.