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Old Oct 23, 12, 2:32 am
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Asheville, NC
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the luxury hotels of Venice

I just spent two days in Venice, during which time I made site inspections of most of the Virtuoso hotels in the city. As there is little consensus on hotel choices in Venice, I particularly wanted to do these inspections and come to some conclusions of my own. Here are my initial thoughts.

Please bear in mind that, as always, these are my own subjective opinions, based on my own sense of aesthetics and interior design. Others will and should disagree! This is my judgement about the physical product, and I cannot judge how these hotels provide service to their guests.

Luna Baglioni

Let me begin with what was for me the biggest and best surprise of my site inspections, the Luna Baglioni. The oldest hotel in Venice, it occupies a building originally built in 1118, nearly 900 years ago. Well located, the Baglioni is literally just a minute from the entrance to the Piazza San Marco. Yet being down a small canal just outside the piazza, the hotel is well apart from the noise and crowds.

The lead-in category Superior room I was shown had a view of the Royal Gardens, the small canal running by the hotel, and a peak at the Lagoon. Though an extremely small room with very little space in which to stretch out, I found its decor very appealing, beautiful patterned fabrics with greens, golds, and browns. The bathroom was likewise very small with a single vanity, toilet, and a shower in the tub. If your budget does not permit you to stay in a larger room, but you are looking for very attractive accommodations, this room may be a good possibility.

While Deluxe room was acceptable in size (more like a traditional "Superior" room), I was not struck by the interior styling of this category.

However, once you move into the Junior Suite category, you get both size and the same gorgeous styling of the Superior category rooms. If it works with your budget, I would recommend a Lagoon View Junior Suite as being the best of all worlds! Junior Suites and above have dual vanities and step-in showers.

Slightly larger than the Junior Suite was the Lagoon View Suite (pictured here). This particular room rates a WOW, decorated with gorgeous red fabrics, although most Suites have the same basic green/gold/brown color motif that I first described.

You should not count on upgrades here, or most hotels in central Venice, during the high season, as occupancy can be close to 100%.

The Cipriani

One of the most legendary hotels in the world, the Cipriani is of a different category from every other hotel in this report. It is a resort on Guidecca Island, a short five-minute boat ride from the Cipriani's dock at Piazza San Marco. Cipriani's boat runs on a complimentary basis for guests 24 hours a day. This location is an asset, as you can be in the center of things in five minutes, yet escape to your own island of seclusion at the end of the day.

With a large swimming pool heated to 86, two tennis courts, a spa, a gorgeous garden, renowned dining opportunities, as well as a Kids Club with a children's pool, this hotel hosts a wealthier, better dressed, and (generally) older crowd than the hotels in Venice itself.

Even the lead-in rooms are large. I spend two nights in a Junior Suite - a large accommodation with white marble floors, white Venetian plaster walls, a Murano glass chandelier, and Murano glass sconces on the wall. The pillows were extremely soft feather pillows (I'm very picky about pillows, and they exceeded my standards!). My suite had a private terrace with a gate leading directly out to the large swimming pool. The bathroom was large with double vanities, a step-in shower, and separate soaking tub.

Service was very attentive. When I first arrived from the airport on a water taxi, my bags were whisked away and were waiting for me in my room. The staff knew me by name. The breakfast buffet was extensive, and Virtuoso guests can also order eggs to order and other hot breakfast items from the menu. Internet was fast and free!

Ca Sagredo

Another surprise discovery, I arranged a site inspection of Ca Sagredo because of the recommendation of this hotel by a colleague. Located around a bend of the Grand Canal, north of the Rialto Bridge. Ca Sagredo is set in a quieter and more residential neighborhood of Venice, picturesque but somewhat less touristy with far fewer tourists on the streets. The location was pleasant and, I think, will appeal to many visitors.

The hotel itself is a 15th century pallazo that belonged to the Sagredo family who occupied it for 600 years. As a consequence, much of the original artwork and furnishings have been preserved. Ca Sagredo became a hotel in 2007. It is a remarkable building, and guests will have the experience of living in a real "palace." The impressive high ceilinged entry area and lobby leads to an enormous and apparently famous staircase whose walls and ceilings feature an original Pietro Longhi fresco painted in 1734. The grand staircase leads into an even more grand hall upstairs. The public spaces of Ca Sagredo are impressive and majestic. I can imagine children exploring the property with open-eyed wonder; it would be a memory they might always keep. Kids (and adults) also have the opportunity to go with the Chef to the Rialto Market (directly across the canal), have cooking classes, and even bake a chocolate cake in the kitchen.

Rooms are decorated with traditional Venetian silk wall coverings. Bathrooms are small, most with single marble vanities, shower/tub combinations, and lack a separate WC. Three rooms on property have a step-in showers instead of a tub, and these are worth requesting if you do not want a soaking tub.

With a Virtuoso upgrade-at-booking, guests booking a lead-in standard room will be blocked in at least a Junior Suite, and higher, if possible, to a Jr. Suite with lagoon view. The front office manager is committed to upgrading Virtuoso guests as much as possible. I would suggest booking a Lagoon View Junior Suite to take advantage of the upgrade-at-booking to a full Suite with lagoon view. I was shown the "Four Light Windows Suite," a large bedroom filled with light and its four tall windows opening onto the Grand Canal. A sofa bed is provided in the separate sitting area of this room, so this would be ideal for families.

I saw two specialty suites. The Library Suite (Count Sagredo's original library) is a national historic landmark. Though this is an unique room with a lot of character, it is long and narrow with its bathroom up a flight of stairs - interesting but impractical. The Sebastiano Ricci Suite is enormous - in fact, it is a single enormous room with far too much space. As with bathrooms throughout Venice (hotels have to work with existing spaces in historical buildings), the bathroom is small with a shower-tub combination but a least a double vanity.

While I would not characterize the rooms at Ca Sagredo as WOW rooms, the hotel itself is a true palace and its neighborhood is worth considering.

The Danieli (Luxury Collection)

The Danieli is comprised of two old palazzos, along with a newer adjacent building (the Danieli Excelsior) that was constructed in 1949. Literally next door to the Doge's Palace, the Danieli is located on the busy pedestrian promenade along the Lagoon leading from the Piazza San Marco. The Danieli is literally in the center of all the action, and if this is where you want to be, it's worth considering. The hotel has a striking lobby (originally the courtyard between two older palazzos), and I heard one American guest say to her husband, "I'm thrilled; this is where we belong."

I was first shown a Jr. Suite with Lagoon view. Like most of the rooms I saw in Venice, this room had silk fabric wall coverings. The double glazed windows provided good soundproofing (important, given its busy location). The Jr. Suite was a good size room with a step-in shower, soaking tub, and single vanity, although I'm told that most accommodations have a tub-shower combination. Be sure request a step-in shower, if this is important to you. The request can be accommodated.

I was next shown a Deluxe Lagoon View room - about 30 sqm, more like a typical Superior Room - with shower in the tub and a single vanity. Lagoon View rooms have great natural light, which enhances the appearance of any room.

I was finally shown a Luxury Lagoon View room in the new building - it felt like a good-sized Deluxe room. This room had Venetian plaster walls.

Westin Europa and Regina

Located several blocks west of the Piazza San Marco, the Westin is accessed either directly from the canal or down a narrow alley off one of the pedestrian passageways of Venice. The hotel has a small lobby with a low ceiling. I heard the desk agent tell a guest checking in, "Breakfast is not included in your rate." Evidently they didn't book through a Virtuoso agent or through FHR.

This hotel looks feels like a Westin, by design, I was told — not necessarily a desirable feature. The rooms are decorated in lighter colors with details that hint at the Venetian stylistic tradition - the shape of the headboards, for instance. The rooms do have Westin's Heavenly Beds, so this may appeal to some.

I was first shown an Executive room with partial Lagoon view, a nicely sized room with wall paper (not silk).

Lagoon View rooms have silk wall treatments. The room I was shown had a dual vanity but a shower in the tub with a shower curtain. Only about 15% of the hotel's rooms have step-in showers.

Finally, I was shown a recently renovated "Stunning Grand Canal View" room, perhaps what you would associate with a Grand Deluxe. The room was very large and was decorated with silk fabrics with a hardwood floor. The small bathroom did have a separate shower but only a single vanity.

Bauer Il Palazzo

Bauer Il Palazzo is a short walk from the Piazza San Marco, located right at the entrance to the Grand Canal. It is adjacent to its sister property, the Bauer hotel (which is not Virtuoso). Guests have access the facilities of all three Bauer hotels, including the spa and pool at the Palladio on Guidecca Island. Bauer provides boat service to transport its guests to the island.

Il Palazzo has a rooftop terrace on the seventh floor to which Palazzo guests have exclusive access. This is where the complimentary Virtuoso breakfast is served. Because the Palazzo is one of the tallest buildings in Venice, its terrace has a commanding view; I was able to see the the Doge's Palace just glancing into the restaurant.

A family-owned hotel, rooms are individually decorated with walls covered either in Venetian fabric or Venetian marble (plaster with a faux marble finish). Rooms have some antique furnishings, and each floor is decorated in a different color scheme.

It's important to get a canal view room here, as the natural light can brighten up interiors that many will find to be a bit tired. Most rooms have walk-in showers, and some have double vanities. Rooms are comfortably sized; rooms without a view tend to be larger than room with Canal view.

Londra Palace

Located on the busy pedestrian walkway leading away from Piazza San Marco, the Londra Palace is a block away from the Danieli. Londra Palace has been accepted into Relais & Chateau, and this will be made official by the end of the year. This being said, the Londra Palace struck me more as a four star-type property but a very good value for those working on a more limited budget.

Classic and Deluxe rooms are quite small with very little extra space. Deluxe rooms face the Lagoon (with lots of natural light) while Classic rooms look back towards the city. Rooms have traditional Venetian styling with updated bathrooms. Walls are treated by Venetian fabrics in various different color schemes. Renovated bathrooms are small with a marble vanity and shower in the tub. These room categories could be good options for travelers on a budget.

Junior Suites are nicely sized, with the top floor suites with terrace being in especially high demand. The suites at the end of the building are especially nice with windows on three sides of the room. All but three Jr. Suite bathrooms have a step-in shower and separate soaking tub.

Second floor rooms have high ceilings and terraces. Their double-glazed windows provide good sound proofing, and the pedestrian traffic at night will be much less significant.

Last edited by DavidO; Nov 1, 12 at 12:13 pm
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