This week in Venice a lucky few will get a first glimpse at some of the year’s most hotly anticipated films, although the writer’s strike means it’ll be a little lacking in star power. Still, a city like Venice was never going to be content being relegated to a supporting role.
It doesn’t just host film stars, it is one – a versatile one at that, featuring in everything from David Lean’s superb Summertime, starring Katherine Hepburn, to Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, to the action-packed adventures of James Bond and Spiderman. If you need a setting for your own story, though, here are the boutique hotels in Venice that are always worthy of screen time (even if that’s just the 300 pictures you take of your suite…)
IL PALAZZO EXPERIMENTAL
The art-house darling
Il Palazzo Experimental is all about the views: of sunset over the Giudecca Canal from the restaurant terrace, plates of cichetti in hand; of the comings-and-goings of small boats in the large garden that overlooks a narrow canal to the hotel’s western side; and of the entire city from the spectacular roof terrace.
Centuries-old exposed beams and Gothic windows aside, inside feels a little less traditional, and a bit more pared back – a kind of art deco lite with pops of pretty blush pink, moss green, and claret red. Wavy-backed banquette seating in the bar and restaurant, tall, stripy headboards in the bedrooms and oversized mirrors throughout feel especially fun in a city dominated by more traditional furnishings.
The Experimental group’s first venture was their famed Parisian cocktail bar so it goes without saying that the ground-floor restaurant and Experimental Cocktail Club are worth a visit alone. There’s a daily-changing homemade lemonade, but for something that packs more of a punch, ask for the innovative cocktail menu.
And action! The Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Music, inside Pisani Palace, is a 12-minute stroll from Il Palazzo. You might recognise it as the backdrop to Vesper’s meeting with Mr Gettler in James Bond’s Casino Royale. In the film it collapses into a canal; in reality it’s (thankfully) still there. (Incidentally, parts of From Russia with Love were also filmed in Venice.)
Campo San Barnaba is even closer – a seven-minute walk through the largely residential and artistic Dorsoduro quarter. The Campo, or square, is where Handsome Rob finds Gillian reading a book titled How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, in the Statham-starring Italian Job remake. Its church, the Church of San Barnaba, is home to a permanent exhibition of da Vinci’s inventions and was a filming location for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
CA’ DI DIO
The sleeper hit
By Venice’s 1,600-year-old standards at least, Ca’ Di Dio feels relatively new. It opened last year in the Arsenale district (a 15-minute walk from St Mark’s Square), albeit in a former military building that dates back to the 13th century.
Some of the rooms overlook an internal courtyard (where breakfast is served), some a sleepy canal and others the lagoon and majestic San Giorgio Maggiore. In Vero restaurant, order a herbal-tasting spritz made to a secret recipe, and the beef which is sourced from herds that graze in chamomile-rich meadows in the country’s mountainous north.
And action! La Biennale di Venezie – the home of the film festival and the annual art biennale – is less than five minutes away, so there’s little point staying anywhere else if you’ve managed to snag a ticket to one of the 21 world premieres.
Both the Church of San Francesco della Vigna – one of several Venetian churches used in the 2008 film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited – and the Arsenale di Venezia – a cluster of former shipyards and armouries which doubled as the Interpol headquarters in Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie’s The Tourist – are a 10-minute walk away.
It’s hard to put into words quite how extraordinary Venice’s millennium-long existence as a sovereign state and maritime republic really was… but at the height of its power during the Renaissance, its power stretched far beyond the borders of modern-day Italy, shaping trade, commerce, Western art and architecture throughout Europe.
During this time, anyone who was anyone built a palazzo on the 2.5mile long Grand Canal—but only one of the monumental eight ordered into being is now open to the public in the guise of a hotel (the majority are now museums, galleries and exhibition spaces): the Aman Venice.
The Baroque-style Palazzo Papadopoli, to give the hotel its proper name, is owned by the Arrivabene family, custodians of the building for more than 200 years, who still live on the top floor. The weight of passing time and history lingers heavy in the air. A towering, wooden lamp that once illuminated the deck of a ship that fought in the Battle of Lepanto (the largest naval battle in Western history since antiquity) stands proud on the ground floor; frescoes by Cesare Rotta and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo adorn the ceilings of the first and second Piano Nobiles.
Arrive by private water taxi, stay in a room looking out over the Grand Canal, and insist on taking breakfast outside in the garden (it’s the only palazzo to have both a front and back garden), whatever the weather.
And action! Aman Venice might not have starred in a film, but it has played host to plenty of Hollywood royalty, including George Clooney who held his wedding reception to Amal Alamuddin within its walls and, more recently, Don’t Worry Darling star Harry Styles.
The Ca’ Sagredo is a ten minute walk away. It’s now a five-star hotel, but when it doubled as Tom’s apartment in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) the building had been emptied and abandoned. On your way over, pop into Pied à Terre, a shoe shop specialising in Venetian friulane slippers.
Now meet the full ensemble cast of Venice hotels