This intimate Venetian boutique hotel offers plush and private living in the heart of the island city. Little sister to DD724, its individually designed rooms blend comfort with impeccably executed contemporary tastes. Sprinkled with modern art, photography and sculpture, and flavoured with architectural hints of its Gothic past, I Qs does ‘urban hideaway’ with style-savvy panache.
11am, although this may be flexible. Check-in is from 8am to 7pm; there’s a €50 charge for arrivals between 7pm and 9pm and arrival after 9pm will be charged €75.
Double rooms from £269.13 (€310), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-in.
Rates do not include breakfast. Buy ingredients locally and the hotel kitchen has everything you need to whip up a feast in the morning.
I Qs can arrange water taxis to take you around the city from its private pier.
At the hotel
Private pier, library of books, music and films to borrow, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: fully equipped kitchen, flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, Nespresso machine, La Bottega dell’Albergo fig essence bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each apartment has been designed in a different modern style, but all preserve a twinkle of their Gothic architecture. Larger suites Q3 and Q1 overlook the canal: Q1’s seven windows and fireplace make it the lighter of the two, but we like the tatami flooring in Q3 – a thoughtful oriental touch that dovetails nicely with the bright white hues and high-gloss Corian bathroom. Q, the studio, can be annexed to Q2 to form a bigger two-bedroom suite.
A map of Venice’s quirky, labyrinthine streets, otherwise you may never make it back to the hotel. (Make sure you leave behind all memories of Don’t Look Now.)
Small pets are welcome. I Qs can arrange helicopter trips over Venice and water taxis to take you around the city from the hotel’s private pier. In-room massages can also be arranged on request.
If you’d like to bring the nippers, cots and extra beds are available for €80 and the suites have sofa beds. Babysitting with staff can be arranged in advance, at €30 an hour (€50 after 11pm).
The hotel’s clean energy comes exclusively from the Trentino hydroelectric power plants, guaranteed by the Manager Of the Electrical System.
There are no communal areas – stick to your apartment’s dining table and listen to the water lapping outside.
Clean-cut Armani with a touch of Venetian exoticism.
This is more like staying in a serviced apartment than a hotel: every room is equipped with a kitchen containing an oven and all the pots, pans and plates needed to whip up a meal. If you don’t ‘do’ cooking on holiday, the area around the hotel is blessed with plenty of eating-out options
There’s isn’t one in the hotel, but you can stash drinks in the fridge in your room, and staff will bring ice if you ask. Ask the concierge to point you towards the nicest nearest watering holes.
None, but you can have groceries delivered to your door.
From Venice's Marco Polo airport, approach the city by crossing the lagoon on the Alilaguna (www.alilaguna.it) to San Zaccaria, which takes roughly an hour. It costs around €30 for the express and €13 for the other routes. From there it's a five-minute walk to Campiello Querini Stampalia, via Fondamenta Rimedio and Calle Sacrestia. You can also get a water taxi all the way from the airport to Campiello Querini Stampalia (around €150 for four people) or from Piazzale Roma (€80 for four people); both can be organised by the hotel. Alternatively, Trieste, Verona and Treviso airports are all possibilities. The first two have bus links to their main train stations, and are then a one-hour or three-hour train journey respectively; Treviso has a direct bus (www.atvo.it) link to Piazzale Roma in Venice, from where a 20-minute journey on Route 1 or 2 of the vaporetto will take you to the Rialto stop.
Venice’s main station is Venezia Santa Lucia; see Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for information on trains in Italy. Take the vaporetto down the Grand Canal from Santa Lucia to Rialto (roughly 15 minutes on Route 1 or 2). Transfers can be organised by the hotel (€80 for four, and an additional €10 per extra person).
Venice is not made for cars and does not allow them into the city, so if you have driven from another part of Italy or the airport, you will need to leave your vehicle either on the mainland, which is easier, cheaper and avoids the sometimes colossal traffic jams, or at the edge of the city centre. If you park on the mainland in Mestre, you can choose between the rail station (and then proceed by trainl) or the San Giuliano parking lot (and proceed by boat). Reception is manned from 8am to 3pm and 6pm to 8pm. Let them know in advance if you'll be arriving outside reception hours and staff will arrange to meet and greet you.
Worth getting out of bed for
I Qs’ suites have views of the Palazzo Querini Stampalia, whose 16th-century exterior gives way to a striking and celebrated modern interior by 1960s architect Carlo Scarpa. In the art gallery upstairs, you’ll find vedutista cityscapes, paintings by Tiepolo, Pietro Longhi and other members of the Venetian school, as well as drawings by Titian and Tintoretto and a selection of 19th-century furniture. The café’s not bad, either.
Close by, in the eponymous square, L’Osteria di Santa Marina is a locally beloved joint with a penchant for delicate seafood and a spectacular tasting menu (+39 041 528 5239; closed Sundays and Mondays). Closer still – next door, in fact – Alle Testiere serves excellent fish dishes to just nine tables, so booking is vital (+39 041 522 7220). For a low-key lunch, Osteria Da Carla has a fantastic location just behind the Piazza San Marco (+39 041 523 7855). Try anything from the short menu, or eat little tapas-style tartines (such as toast with melted cheese and walnuts) at the bar. If you fancy an authentic, no-frills trattoria experience, try Trattoria Alla Madonna at Calle della Madonna, 594 San Polo (+39 041 522 3824): from San Marco, cross the Rialto bridge and take a hard left – three minutes down the waterfront (past all the tourist traps), you’ll see Calle della Madonna on your right, with the restaurants yellow sign marking the spot. Order the seafood risotto (but don’t expect to find any seafood in it) and for a secondo, order any grilled fish. It's a great little slice of Venetian life (if a little rough around the edges). For a rambunctious and rustic evening of great pasta and better wine, head to La Mascareta (+39 041 523 0744), a largely untouristy taste of authentic Venetian nightlife, just a few moments from the hotel. Feel free to confuse it with Al Mascaron nearby, another low-key local fave (+39 041 522 5995).
Gazing out of my London window on a rainy day, it strikes me like a brick: the only thing harder than organizing a milestone birthday, is organising the follow-up. While a 30th is all about celebrating the reigning reveller, 30-plus-1 is focussed on forgetting the fact you’ve handed your crown to fresher-faced milestoners. I have a flash of inspiration – what better distraction than a weekend in Venice? After all, it is on Mrs Smith’s short-list of dream destinations and I can impress her with secrets gleaned from my previous visits to this watery city.
A few weeks later and we’re in the Piazzale Roma, main gateway to the archipelago. Thanks to boarding the incorrect vaporetto, instead of gliding past the intended stunning scenery on the Grand Canale we're chugging along the Canale della Giudecca. It’s rather like entering Venice through the trademen’s entrance. Mrs Smith is not impressed.
From ferry to terra firme, and I manage to win back some Venetian street (or should that be canal?) cred by swiftly navigating the maze of alleys to I Qs. Calling the property discreet would be an understatement – I Qs doesn't give any indication it’s a hotel. If you've managed to find your way to its iron gate, across the private bridge and through the heavy wooden doors, then you’ve definitely earned a place at the inn.
Dark-toned walls, drapes and furniture, and a very low-slung bed – our boudoir sets the mood for the weekend’s mischief. We’ve been treated to room number 4, a huge suite with an abundance of windows (even the walk-in closet has one). Every pane faces one of two intersecting canals that the hotel sits on, both of them blessed with the sounds of gondoliers singingly plying their trade throughout the day. Although for Venetians this is possibly the equivalent of a double-decker route pass your house.
Soon enough though we’re off to explore the city, winding through laneways that always seem crowded, only because they were never intended for more than two at a time. By 6pm we are at a no-name canalside bar where I’m briefing Mrs Smith on the joys of Italy’s dinner drinking ritual, the aperitivo. (My two-part lecture will conclude with the digestivo after a helping of seafood pasta later that evening.) Before heading back to I Qs we make our grand entrance into Piazza San Marco in all its nighttime glory. Mrs Smith is smitten and I am humbled – this calls for a round of grappa.
The banging headaches we wake up to the next morning come compliments of our digestivo antics. Luckily fresh espresso and breakfast is served in the room at I Qs. Between shopping, sightseeing, a dodgy concert and the best squid ink risotto in a 100-kilometre radius, day two of our Venetian escapade seems to glide right by.
The night, however, is just starting and I have the evening planned to perfection… At 11pm we’ll stroll down the backstreets finding our way to Venice’s landmark casino where I am to flex my betting prowess while Mrs Smith sips cocktails by my side. Once I’ve made enough money to pay for the trip three times over we’ll be whisked away 007 style on a luxury water taxi that will drop us off at the hotel’s private boat entrance where I’ll sweep Mrs Smith (tiddly by now) into my arms and lead her into our Venetian palazzo...
If you're imagining the sound of 'O Sole Mio' playing softly in the background, here comes the part where the needle scratches across the record... Plans don’t go quite as I’d envisioned. Mrs Smith is wearing heels and most of the Venetian alleyways are cobblestoned, which means that by the time we make it to the casino she’s in agony and I’m anxious about missing out on the action. The casino’s security system produces a much younger-looking picture of me (with a moustache – remnants of a prior visit) resulting in a further delay at check-in. The UK banks block my Italian cash withdrawals, and less than 45 minutes after I’ve finally negotiated some seed money from the ATM I am wiped clean by the house. At the €5 black jack table. By an 18-year-old card dealer. A 3am walk home awaits us.
Anyone who has walked through Venice in the wee small hours can attest to the silver lining in this story. If you want to have the city to yourself and catch a glimpse of the days of the Doges, then you should retrace our steps. No tourists, no noise, no souvenir shops, no loud restaurants or gondoliers… just the sound of your feet on the cobblestones, the night sky reflecting on the water and the soft lapping of the canals. That walk home was one of the best experiences of our lives.
On the last day I take Mrs Smith by the hand; crossing the Accademia Bridge we are soon strolling along the banks of the Giudecca Canal (the same one we entered the city on, but with a very different mindset). Around us Venice is carrying on its daily grind: some boys are fishing, parents are parading their infants, the sun is beaming in the sky and the crisp early autumn air is generous enough to let you get away with just a long sleeve shirt.
Eventually we pull up to Marcello’s waterside restaurant, where the menu is printed in Italian, the waiter happens to be the owner and every patron looks like an extra from a Fellini film. I grab a table next to the water and order a bottle of prosecco. As we are enjoying our last indulgent meal of the trip I turn to Mrs Smith and say, ‘What are the odds that I’ll be in the planning committee for your 32nd?’ She replies, ‘You do have a curious way of impressing a girl, Mr Smith... but I wouldn’t have it any other way.’