Viva Venice — Glass floats into Venice and discovers the newly opened Palazzo Venart
THERE may not be a Fiat or Alfa Romeo in sight on the streets of Venice, but there are plenty of water taxis, waterbuses and gondolas that meander along every canal flowing through the heart of this unique and ancient city.
I am running my hand along the smooth, perfectly restored hull of one of the 432 gondolas in operation in Venice today at the 400-year-old Lo Squero di San Trovaso, which is one of only four remaining boat yards in Venice. I smell the pungent fragrance of freshly applied paint in the damp air as my Italian, thickly set bespectacled guide, Giuseppe, explains that the gondolas are hand-made from no less than 280 pieces of eight different types of wood.
Three times a year, these expensive vessels need renovating to remove the excessive thick and green algae, which forms from their extensive exposure to the salt water. With 30 million visitors arriving into Venice each year, every gondola needs to be in pristine condition. Rather like the Palazzo Venart, the uber-luxurious five-star boutique hotel, which is to be home during my short stay in this magical city.
Originally known as Palazo Bachini delle Palme, this former private residence has been extravagantly restored over the last two years and has now been reborn as Palazzo Venart, making it the latest addition to the ever-growing portfolio of LDC hotels. Conveniently located in the quiet and unassuming residential district of Santa Croce, it is a few minutes’ walk from the Vaporetto waterbus stop and a 30-minute amble to San Marco, which is dominated by the imposing St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and the thousands of Venetian pigeons claiming this square as their home.
Arriving at Palazzo Venart, I meet the diminutive, suave and charming general manager, Angelo Rizzi, whose melodious Italian accent matches his perfectly cut bespoke suit. I discover that his previous roles included being the general manager at the Prinicipe di Savoia in Milan and at the world-famous Villa d’Este in Lake Como.
Pointing to the ceiling frescoes, Angelo explains that the Palazzo Venart’s transformation program involved the restoration of every corner and crevice to a level above and beyond its former glory, which was achieved under the strict supervision of local art historians.
As I take in the sweet floral fragrance permeating throughout the hotel’s ventilation system, I notice the wooden vaulted ceilings, the rich jewel-coloured textured walls and the over-sized mirrors and objects d’art strategically placed on every windowsill.
In my room I find a huge welcoming velvet sofa, with several plumped cushions in a variety of shapes and sizes, beckoning me to sit down and to take in the scene. Heavy brocade floor-to-ceiling curtains reveal enormous leaded light glass windows, through which I can get a clear view of the Grand Canal. The enormous bed and Murano glass chandelier take the focal point of the room, which is appointed with a roll-top bath, a huge walk-in shower, and a mirrored sink unit in the marble enrobed spacious bathroom.
In the morning I follow the unblemished red carpet downstairs, which leads me into the intimate Ristorante Glam, whose name somehow mimics the culture of the hotel. Thankfully, breakfast is an a la carte event, rather than an opportunity to overindulge at a self-service buffet.
Through the picture windows, which lead onto the magnolia scented courtyard (perfect for summer al fresco dining), I notice a dainty group of immaculately dressed chamber maids arriving to start their day. They imitate the immaculate hotel interior, dressed in freshly laundered pale blue uniforms and white shoes, looking more like extras on a film set rather than hotel staff ready to start their shift.
The uber-talented Enrico Bartolini, decorated with two Michelin stars by the time he was 33, proudly presides over the kitchen at Palazzo Venart. Restaurant Glam is one of the most talked-about eateries in Venice, both among tourists and discerning locals. To my surprise, Bartolini himself warmly welcomes me into his restaurant and I am taken aback by the humility of one of the most famous chefs in Italy. Luckily for me, he is in town for the official opening of the hotel.
That evening for dinner I order the Venetian speciality of bright pink coloured beetroot risotto accompanied with gently infused droplets of Gorgonzola sauce, and for dessert I select the hazelnut ice cream, served with the fragrant, lukewarm melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cream. It left my tastebuds literally begging for more.
And when it is time to depart, I simply step outside into Palazzo Venart’s perfectly manicured gardens leading to the Grand Canal, and board a private open-top leather-upholstered Riva speedboat, specially reserved from Venice Quality Transfers. I am reminded of the beauty of Venice as I glide under the stars and along winding waterways, passing all the historic buildings that precariously line the route on my picturesque journey into Venice Marco Polo airport’s dock. No car required.
by Amanda Bernstein
Palazzo Venart Luxury Hotel, Santa Croce 1961, 30135 Venice , Italy
Tel. +39 041 523 3784