Venice’s most famous hotel is neither a landmark palace, nor several hundred years old, and it stands not in the city proper, but across the lagoon on Giudecca Island. Nonetheless, the Hotel Cipriani is as synonymous with Venice as the Piazza San Marco. We suppose it has to do with the founder Giuseppe Cipriani, whose 1931 Harry’s Bar sated Hemingway’s legendary thirst, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, Noel Coward’s and Gertrude Stein’s.
The Palazzo Vendramin, formerly a 15th-century aristocratic residence, now forms a part of the Hotel Cipriani, and consists of seven luxury suites and three double bedrooms with private butler service, and of course the incredible views of St. Mark’s Square from over the lagoon. However, other than the addition of the Palazzo, not much has changed since the Cipriani opened in 1958. There’s Walter, the barman, a permanent fixture who makes the best Bellinis in town (invented by Cipriani, by the way). The breakfast is unique and quite possibly the most romantic in the world—white mozzarella, blood orange juice, and golden espresso. And the service is to die for, especially the private butlers that come with a booking in the Palazzo rooms. There are thoughtful touches like the private motor launch that doesn’t stop running until the last guest has checked in for the night. There’s the slim, svelte clientele, decked out in sunglasses and Fendi baguettes. And now there’s a pool—oddly, the only one in the city, and Joan Collins’ favorite in the whole world. The saltwater is heated so you can swim in the spring and autumn months (and who goes to Venice in the summer anyway?). On balmy days, the thing to do is to have lunch at the poolside.
Rooms at the Cipriani, however, are slightly less than extraordinary, with their pale Venetian color scheme, small bathrooms, and slightly frayed appearance, but it’s all part of the old-world intensely high-class charm. You could, of course, stay in the Gerard Gallet garden suites, hi-tech and hyper-deluxe, with spa tubs and TVs that emerge from glass topped tables—but you’d be missing the point. The Cipriani is about atmosphere, not amenities. And besides, the décor has the advantage of not distracting you from the view, which may be the best thing about this hotel. For while others gaze out towards the lagoon and the islands, the Cipriani alone—from its perch on the Giudecca Island—looks onto Venice. And the sight of pastel buildings emerging from the water is so stunning it will make you wonder how anyone could not be passionate about this place.
Giudecca 10, Venice
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