While Venice is a must-see city, it is often overrun by tourists. The challenge is to find a luxurious hotel in an outstanding private location close to the major attractions. That establishment is the Hotel Cipriani, which is famous for its stunning setting and stylish architecture. However, it’s the friendly down-to-earth service that leaves me with the most enduring impression.
Location: Giudecca Island, Venice
Hotel name: Belmond Hotel Cipriani
Room type: Double lagoon view with balcony
Length of stay: Two nights
The hotel doesn’t have its own airport or railway station transfers but outsources them instead, which I found rather surprising. Our group required two boats and unfortunately our boat went via the industrial area. Because our boatman took us the back way, my introduction to this romantic city was not what I had hoped for. The other boat went via the Grand Canal, which made me rather envious. Luckily our return transfer went via the Grand Canal, so we got to enjoy that experience in the end. Hotel staff told us that each boatman decides which route he will take, so there may be a chance to negotiate at the outset, which I would certainly recommend.
Check-In and Service
Despite the Cipriani’s high-end credentials and luxurious ambience, there’s nothing stuffy about this hotel. Staff members are invariably friendly, straightforward and refreshingly down-to-earth, and I find the service to be sublime. Check-in is smooth and efficient. I actually feel relaxed afterwards, which isn’t the case at all hotels.
Roberto, the head concierge, is incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and gregarious. Talking to him is like running into an old friend. When I tell him about our transfer experience, he smiles: “Those boatmen are like the mafia,” Roberto tells me. “They take you whichever way they want and try to charge accordingly.”
Overall the service is impeccable. If you ring down from your room, someone from the house staff arrives almost immediately. The great service also extends to the restaurants and bars.
My room is a double lagoon view with balcony. It might sound over the top, but when I walk out on to the balcony I feel like a movie star. The view and the hotel’s position on an island with beautiful gardens make this secluded resort an ideal place to stay. The hotel was originally a palace with extra wings added at a later date, so it’s easy to feel like royalty. There’s a choice of luxury rooms, junior suites, suites and the indulgent Palladio and Dogaressa suites. The Dogaressa suite overlooks St Mark’s Square. My room overlooks the pool and has a partial lagoon view. It features a muted Venetian style, which is far from pretentious. The only things lacking were an iron and ironing board, however I was able to have my shirt ironed for 12 Euro.
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Food & Beverage
Breakfast is buffet, a la carte or a mixture of both. I found the buffet to be excellent, with a good selection of salami and cheese. The eggs, sausages and bacon I ordered came with tiny slices of brown toast, which were unusual but tasty nevertheless. The Oro restaurant has a Michelin star to its name, and deservedly so. Kick off dinner with seasonal tomatoes and cherries in various guises and follow with blue lobster cooked on cacao butter, mantis shrimps and green cabbage with sesame. You can’t go wrong with the menu in this restaurant. The wine list is extensive, so you’ll find the perfect accompaniment for the food you select.
The bars were highlights for me. I had a truly memorable gin and tonic at the Gabbiano Bar. The barman revealed his expertise as he created the g & t in a wine goblet with rose petals, thyme, juniper berries, rosemary and slices of lime. It was expensive, but worth it.
The location is simply fantastic. To be so close to the main attractions of Venice while simultaneously enjoying seclusion in the beautiful gardens and traditional architecture of an island retreat is unusual to say the least. I did feel I was in an island paradise, looking out on greenery and lagoons. Despite this feeling of seclusion, the hotel’s shuttle boat had me in St Mark’s square in less than ten minutes. The boat also took me to Murano and to the only vineyard estate within Venice. So while Venice itself was teeming with tourists, I was able to return to serenity after seeing the highlights. The pool, one of the largest in Venice, is heated to 28 degrees, making it an absolute delight first thing in the morning. The gardens and surrounds were so pleasant that I could easily have spent a day relaxing there without leaving the island.
Tips and last word
I would advise staying in the more contemporary rooms near the beautiful pool. Explore the gardens, take full advantage of the regular boat shuttle service and do yourself a favour by indulging in at least one specialty cocktail at the Gabbiano or Fortuny bars. Don’t forget to negotiate your transfer route so you don’t miss the Grand Canal.