Of all the adjectives for Venice – romantic, surreal, seriously can this be real? – you could chuck the thesaurus in the canal and stick with joyful. Venice is what I call a dopamine destination. Capable of topping up your mood like a pay-as-you-go phone, the joy begins as soon as you’ve completed the assault course of retrieving your luggage from the overhead locker on an EasyJet flight.
Il Palazzo Experimental has its own dock on Giudecca Canal, which means the only way to arrive (if Mr Smith wants to pretend to be Matt Damon, at any rate) is via water taxi. Get the boat. Trust me on this. Everything you hate about airport transfers (boredom/getting hangry/wishing you’d stopped for the loo in the terminal) will get blown out of the water as your driver whisks you across the lagoon like an action-movie star. Maybe you’ll play it as cool as a Spritz, maybe you’ll squeal like a newly born farm animal. As you whoosh and weave through canals, under bridges and past majestic gothic facades, the only thing for certain is that when you arrive, you’ll arrive smiling (even, I’m told, in January).
And Il Palazzo Experimental is not one to let the mood dip. For one, its creators are mixologists-turned-hoteliers; the tastemakers behind good-spirited hangouts such as the Experimental Cocktail Clubs in London and Paris. Having diversified into nightlife and night-night life, the Experimental Group’s bedroom scene is as strong as its booze shelf: Hôtel des Grands Boulevards and Grand Pigalle in Paris, London’s Henrietta Hotel, sceney addresses in Verbier, Ibiza and Menorca. And now Venice.
Even without knowing what all the fuss is about, Il Palazzo Experimental stops dog walkers, runners and tourists in their tracks on the promenade outside. The building has all the trappings of a former palace, such as giant arched windows with leggy pillars, while ‘Adriatica’ is written in mosaics in an intriguing, ancient-looking font. Once the name of the shipping company that based its HQ here, Adriatica has now been recycled into the title of the hotel’s buzzy, vongole-slurping restaurant.
Now, before I fangirl the interiors, I have to issue a caveat. This is the point at which to duck out if you love white, swear by understated minimalism, consider cream too bold a wall colour, and your favourite colour is greige. Because the interiors at Il Palazzo Experimental go big. Really big.
They are exuberant and kitsch and camp. They command attention like a pair of Speedos in your eyeline. You will be sucked into a joyously playful world and, like the water taxi here, it will be thrilling. Fancy a turquoise-and-white striped bedroom door with an anchor for a knocker? Yes! Pink walls and a terrazzo floor? Need! A dark-red bathroom with mirrors framed in ridiculous amounts of marble? Into it!
If there was ever a risk that Experimental’s stalwart designer Dorothée Meilichzon might have gone a Gondolier-inspired candy stripe too far, it’s spared by the fact that everything is dripping in quality. Materials are plush and weighty; every side table, wall light and pink sofa has been meticulously engineered to work together. The design might, like its name, be a little experimental; but absolutely nothing about its seamless execution is accidental.
What’s most impressive is that for all the pattern-clashing theatre of the interior design, there is only one leading lady – and that’s Venice. The palatial windows, particularly XXXL-sized on the first floor, offer teasing flashes of canal blue. We stayed in a Giudecca Executive Canal room with balcony, and I cannot say enough good things about dragging open the thickest blackout drapes known to mankind (a joy in themselves) and jumping back into bed to watch morning canal life snuggled underneath the covers.
Will you use the balcony? Truthfully, probably not beyond an obligatory pose-with-an-espresso snap. Regardless of how restrained you are with the gelato (and please do not be restrained with the gelato), it’s too compact to sit on. But also because Il Palazzo Experimental has a garden. Tropical palms, a gluggable cocktail list crafted by the city’s pros, and a quiet canal backdrop create all the ingredients for vibey Venetian alfresco dining. In any language, that’s the happiest of happy hours.
Even the slump of checking out isn’t a mood-kill here (and not only because you secretly stole the hotel slippers, which have smiley faces on them). The airport run doesn’t mean stress, it means water taxi. In one final flourish, you’ll whizz back out the way you came in – wind in your hair, Venice in your eyes, smile on your face, action heroes in your thoughts. The same, but happier. You’ve been Veniced and, ragazzi, it was joyful.
The fun doesn’t stop there: explore our complete collection of hotels in Venice
Freelance journalist Gemma started her career as a motoring writer where, a week into the job, she was sent first class to Thailand to take a pick-up truck off-road. Since then, her career path has been smoother, but certainly not more sedentary: she’s lived in London, Sydney, Barcelona and recently moved to Paris (keep up @thetravellingapartment). Gemma’s writing has appeared in leading British and international titles, including The Times, Glamour, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.