Bookend your yacht charter with a stay in Venice
by Nick Rice
With a proliferation of historical sightseeing and evocative backdrops, Italy is an almost peerless destination for chartering a superyacht and soaking up the country’s vast riches. And where better to begin your charter vacation than in that most magnificent and revered of Italian cities, Venice.
The entire city and the lagoon it is built around is a world heritage site. Comprised of 118 small islands, accessible by an intriguing network of canals and bridges, it’s an intoxicating pleasure to get lost in the heart of Venice.
Don’t even bother with directions, skirt past those stalled on corners hopelessly twirling their maps around and just follow your nose. You will encounter the oldest café in Europe in the city’s principal square, Piazza San Marco, and be spoiled for choice when it comes to cultural treasures. As for accommodation, Venice has some truly unique and breath-taking hotels. Why not bookend your superyacht charter with a day visit or an overnight stay in the very best the city has to offer?
After a busy day enjoying the hustle and bustle of the centre, a private complimentary shuttle boat to the Hotel Cipriani is a real tonic. Located on Giudecca Island, directly opposite San Giorgio Island and Piazza San Marco, within minutes you can be in the beautifully tendered gardens of this idyllic haven. The ambiance at the Cipriani is something particularly special as everyone is warm and friendly, while always mindful of guest privacy. Little wonder that the hotel regularly plays home to a cast of A-list stars. George Clooney visits often and recently made the Cipriani the first hotel in Europe to sell his own brand of tequila, Casamigos.
The hotel has 40 double rooms and four singles, with 21 suites and 30 junior suites all situated around a stunning swimming pool, one of the few to be found in Venice. Effortless style and sophistication is note-perfect here, and the Cip’s Club, Fortuny and Porticciolo restaurants serve some of the finest Italian cuisine you’ll find in Venice. For those eager to explore, the effervescent Public Relations Manager, Laura Di Bert, can arrange some exciting and innovative tours. Cycling is not permitted in Venice, but the Cipriani circumvents that law by offering bike tours on the water! The unique invention of a shuttle bike means you can safely cycle a conventional bicycle attached to inflatable stabilisers through the canals and around Guidecca Island.
Hotel Aman Canal Grande
The history of Venice reveals a story of commercial power on a global scale – throughout the centuries it housed the world’s wealthiest elite, who took great pride in constructing the most opulent ‘palazzi’ (palaces) possible. The most privileged cemented their elevated status with a residence on the Grand Canal. The Aman Canal Grande hotel is one such palace, and it needs to be seen to be believed. Located in the San Polo district, minutes from the Rialto Bridge and with quick access to the Piazza San Marco, it’s a great area to stay.
Guests may arrive by boat at the formal ‘porta d’acqua’ and enter into a world of perfectly preserved historical splendour that has been allied with modern comforts and deftly matched contemporary styling. Sleek designer furniture is surrounded by gilded stucco walls, ceilings with almost three-dimensional frescoes, elaborate rococo mirrors, authentic silk and leather wallpaper and original oil paintings. There are only 24 bedrooms across three double height floors, most of which overlook the Grand Canal. The rooms are also vast, which is rare for Venice, and the whole place feels like you are living in a palace. There is no reception, no signs, just a team of helpful staff that cordially answer any questions and direct you when needed.
Fine dining takes place in the grandeur of the ‘red’ room with a choice of Venetian or Thai. There aren’t many restaurants in Venice serving traditional Pad Thai, and although you may feel obliged to eat the local cuisine, those willing to stray will not be disappointed. For further Asian delights make sure to visit the spa, which is perfectly appointed and guaranteed to soothe. As is a simple stroll around the gardens. The Aman Canal Grande is the only hotel on the Grand Canal to have outside gardens, and guests can relax and dine in the palazzo garden or take solace in the shade of the back garden. There is also a traditional altana on the fifth floor – this rooftop terrace is perfect for a sun-downer, affording one of the most spectacular views of Venice you can hope to find.
Hotel Gritti Palace
Something of an institution in Venice, the Hotel Gritti Palace recently benefitted from a £36.5 million refurbishment. When the revamp was announced the hotel was inundated with requests from loyal guests not to change the interior too dramatically, such is the high regard the hotel is held in by a legion of regular visitors.
Amongst the ardent admirers of the hotel is an ever-expanding list of VIPs, past and present. From Ernest Hemingway, who actually wrote there and has the most luxurious suite named in his honour, through to dignitaries such as Churchill and Da Gaulle, and modern musical icons like Springsteen and Dylan.
Ideally situated at the heart of the Grand Canal, the hotel dates back to 1525 and was originally the home of the Doge of Venice, and later the formal address for the Vatican’s ambassadors to Venice. Retaining all the grandiosity and sumptuous decoration of the era, it became a hotel in 1948 and is now part of the Starwood collection, with 82 individually appointed rooms and nine opulent suites.
The abundance of marble, ancient silk, murano glass, lush velvet, priceless furniture and paintings by the 18th-century Venetian master Pietro Longhi, could have an overpowering effect, but the friendly staff diffuse any imposing sentiments and instead a relaxed, open atmosphere wins out. Whether beginning your charter holiday, or coming to the Gritti Palace to conclude it, make sure to visit the Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Spa, one of the best in the city, and do not miss lunch on the terrace of The Club del Doge restaurant. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy delicious pasta with an unequalled perch over the Grand Canal to observe the world drift by.