Venice’s relative isolation from the rest of Italy, as well as affiliation with the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world, helped it to develop a highly distinct culture and architecture that is recognized as some of the most stunning in the world. Great efforts have been made to preserve these historic buildings in order to maintain the city’s allure. These 10 hotels celebrate this bygone era, while demonstrating a keen interest in contemporary design and comfort.
At the center of Hotel Moresco’s design concept is Venice’s position on the Mediterranean and its history of eastern relations; thus elements of oriental and western design are balanced throughout. The hotel’s 23 bedrooms have been decorated differently, but each in an equally refined manner. A memorable detail completes every room – an antique mirror, a view over the canal or a gold leaf mosaic – which provides for a marvelous and unexpected stay. The hotel website has dedicated a page to all 23 rooms, detailing the particular charm of each so that guests can make an informed decision about their preferred accommodation. The hotel’s study is likely the most elaborate corner of the building. A wooden coffered ceiling, stained glass windows, a dark wood bar with gold embellishments, leather armchairs placed in front of a fireplace, and an antique crystal lamp offer a truly old world experience.
Recently opened by Gabriela and Gianluca, this charming 11 room hotel, set in a period building, has been recently restored in a tasteful amalgam of old and new. The character of the hotel evolves as one enters from one space to the next. In the reception, exposed red brick arches peek out from the pristine white walls, and streamline light fixtures provide for a clean, modern design. Meanwhile, in the ground floor lounge, dark wood ceiling beams are complemented by marble columns and vibrant red walls, covered over in some areas with purple wallpaper. At the center of the hotel is a quaint courtyard enclosed in stone, and surrounding the 19th century well. Corte di Gabriela is made to feel like a private residence so that guests can relax in a homelike atmosphere.
The exotic Novecento Boutique Hotel brings the allure of oriental design to this port city, recalling its once strong relation to Byzantium. The use of luxury fabrics and materials within the hotel interior is inspired by Mariano Fortuny, the painter, fashion designer, and scenographer known for his experimental approach to the arts. When Fortuny moved to Venice in 1889, he became known throughout Europe, and Novecento’s design pays homage to this 19th-century master. The hotel also regularly organizes high profile art events, where the work of local and national artists is displayed in a comfortable and welcoming environment, offering guests the opportunity to mingle with these creative types.
Although Palazzina G represents the ultimate in cutting edge design and luxury, the building itself joins architecture from the 16th and 19th centuries, and in different periods functioned as a noble residence, a merchant’s warehouse and a bathhouse. Typical Venetian materials such as stucco, glass, marble, wood, and steel are re-envisioned through the hotel’s design, merging tradition and innovation. Nearly 300 backlit mirrors have been placed across the whole building, complemented by truly unique furnishings and the glasswork of the artist Aristide Najean. Set right along the Grand Canal, the hotel is renowned French designer Phillipe Starck’s first Italian endeavor and reflects his desire to create a dreamlike ambiance that epitomizes the historic and avant-garde aspects of this truly one of a kind city. Palazzina G offers a special package for art enthusiasts visiting during the Biennale.
Hotel Gabrielli faces the basin of St. Marks Square and offers views of the Grand Canal from large windows in its most luxurious guest rooms. All 103 rooms are furnished with quality Venetian decor and Murano glass light fixtures for an elegantly serene ambiance. The reception hall boasts antique arched windows, heirloom furniture and a wood beam ceiling from which hang extravagant glass chandeliers by the artist Archimede Seguso. Family-run since 1856, the hotel once acted as host to the legendary writer Franz Kafka in the early 20th century. Hotel Gabrielli is also only a few short minutes from the Venice Giardini, the main exhibition site of the Venice Biennale, and offers a Biennale package for those in town for the event.
Guests to Palazzo Abadessa can truly sense the layers of history as they walk the hallways of this antique establishment. Listed as a ‘Period Residence’ by the Provincial Authorities and the Monuments and Fine Arts Office of Venice, Palazzo Abadessa dates back to the late 16th century. Impressive frescoes, plush furnishings, stained glass windows, exorbitant glass chandeliers, and paintings from the Tintoretto school adorn the atrium, hallways, and rooms of this indulgent Venetian palace. A private, lush garden offers guests a quiet refuge within the city of lagoons, a pleasant surprise considering that Venice’s topology allows for very little greenery.
Upon renovation between 1998 and 2000, Ca’ Pisani became the first design hotel in Venice. Although the interior of this historic palace demonstrates a heavy Art Deco influence, the original 14th-century architecture has been preserved, leaving behind the grandeur of mercantile Venice. In addition to retro design, the hotel also features the artwork of Futurist artists Fortunato Depero and Ugo Sissa, as well as that of other 20th century painters. Great attention has been awarded to detail, and hotel furnishings have been carefully considered for their ability to contribute to the desired aesthetic of the space.
Hotel Cipriani is located in the tip of the Island of Giudecca, a few minutes by private boat from San Marco. Guest rooms are opulently decorated with antique furnishings, high-quality oriental rugs, original Venetian artworks and modern appliances while providing stunning views out over the lagoon from wide windows. The hotel is also complete with an Olympic-sized pool (the only pool in central Venice), formal gardens, a spa, acclaimed restaurants and boutique shops. Two 15th century buildings, Palazzo Vendramin and Palazzetto Nani-Barbaro can be accessed through an ancient courtyard and wisteria covered passageway, and are available for those guests who require extra privacy.
In 1964 Diana Serandrei and her husband Alessandro Romanelli opened the Hotel Flora as a small 15 room pensione. The hotel has since become one of the most sought after in Venice, offering a warm family welcome together with the historical elegance of an upscale Venetian accommodation. The 17th-century palazzo, shrouded in leafy ivy, once served as the School of Painting, attended by the great artists of the city, while the adjacent palazzo is said to have been the home of Desdemona of Shakespeare’s Othello. Each of the 43 rooms has been given a distinctive style with the use of 17th century period furniture, damask tapestries and golden cornices.
Hotel Saturnia is located on one of Venice’s most famous streets which connects Campo Santo Stefano to Piazza San Marco. Three years after their wedding in 1905, Hungarian-born Zoe Lustig and her husband Ugo Serandrei leased an eight room pensione and named it Internazionale. The couple later purchased the palazzo and set about refurbishing and expanding its guest rooms. During WWII, shortly after the opening of the new hotel, it became occupied by the Germans and later by the British and South African troops. This internationally acclaimed establishment has since been run by the grandchildren of Zoe and Ugo, who have maintained the elaborately carved columns and stone lions, dark wood coffered ceilings and Venetian Gothic windows with intricate traceries of the exquisite old palace architecture.