A converted 16th-century Venetian palazzo right on the Grand Canal, Palazzo Barbarigo blends modern boudoir glamour with Twenties deco chic. Dramatic contemporary furnishings, feathered lampshades and smoky mirrors send new blood coursing through the heart of this parquet-floored, high-ceilinged grande dame. A short stroll from the Rialto bridge, this is surely one of the sexiest stays in Venice…
Get this when you book through us:
A glass of prosecco or a Venetian spritz and snacks on your first night; a bottle of prosecco for Smiths in the Grand Canal Junior Suite n.10
Double rooms from £238.95 (€280), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include Continental à la carte breakfast, tax and service. A minimum two-night stay applies at weekends (to include a Saturday night) and during Carnival; minimum three nights over xmas/New Year/Easter.
Check in to the Grand Canal Suite and you'll find prosecco chilling in your room on arrival, and the best table in the house – the intimate balcony seat for two – will be reserved for breakfast each morning (8am–11am). We loved the etched mirrors in the bathrooms, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and mirrors, which throw plenty of natural light into darker corners.
At the hotel
Library, free WiFi throughout, laundry; in rooms, flatscreen satellite TV, minibar housed in a cocktail cabinet, kingsize bed, safe.
Our favourite rooms
Every room at Palazzo Barbarigo is a decent size and has a canal view, so you’re onto a winner whichever you pick – although if you’ve set your heart on Grand Canal views, you’ll want one of the lovely Junior Suites, which also have separate dressing and wardrobe areas. Suite 1 (on the ground floor) and 10 are both corner rooms that have the best of both worlds – views of both the San Polo and Grand Canal.
Your sexiest silk lingerie – this is an uber-seductive lovers’ hideaway.
No pets. A third person can be added to a Junior suite or Grand Canal Junior Suite for €90 a night.
Welcome, although this hotel has a glamorous, grown-up feel. Cots are available free for under-3s, extra beds for 3-to-18-year-olds can be added to some suites for €90 a night. Babysitters cost €25 an hour.
Pull up a sexy black velvet barstool or fight tooth and nail for the single table for two on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.
James Bond/Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.
There’s no restaurant as such, but there is a light snack menu with a few lunch and dinner options available in the dining room between noon and 11pm. This dark jewel of a room is the same place you'll enjoy your delicious breakfast every morning (unless you choose to take it in your bedroom, of course).
The 1920s-feel lounge bar is a decidedly slinky spot to sink a few martinis or expertly mixed Barbarigo cocktails – inside, it’s all black velvet sofas, smoky mirrors and upholstered wall panels. Miaow.
The cocktail bar shuts up shop at 11pm.
Get breakfast, drinks or light snacks delivered to your bedside from 7am till 11pm – after that, entertain yourself with your elegant cocktail cabinet.
The closest airport is Marco Polo; you can fly direct from airports across the Uk and Europe; if travelling from further afield catch a connection in Europe. Alternatively, Trieste, Verona and Treviso airports are all possibilities. Our Smith24 team are on hand round the clock to book your flights.
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 San Toma (roughly 20 minutes on Route 1 or 2). You can also take a water taxi; the hotel is on the Grand Canal.
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).
From Venice's Marco Polo airport, approach the city by crossing the lagoon on the Alilaguna to San Marco, which takes roughly an hour. It costs around €30 for the express and €13 for the other routes. From there it’s a quick change to Route 1 of the ACTV vaporetto in the direction of Piazzale Roma. Get off at San Toma. A water taxi direct from the airport to the hotel costs around €120.
Worth getting out of bed for
Palazzo Barbarigo places you perfecly for exploring the lively San Polo district. The Rialto (the thriving commercial centre and source of news described by Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice) is only a short stroll away – be sure to nibble your way through the square's market. And, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is worth popping into to gaze in awe at its Tintoretto-painted interiors. To ride a vaporetto water taxi down the Grand Canal, catch one from the San Tomà stop close by. Beyond that, Venice’s sights are all easy to reach, including the Guggenheim and Palazzo Grassi.
Osteria Da Carlahas a fantastic location just behind the Piazza San Marco. Leave the madding crowd behind and head to this little spot filled with locals and the inevitable (lucky) stray tourist. Sample goodies from the small menu, or eat little tapas-style tartines (such as toast with melted cheese and walnuts) at the bar. Trattoria Anzolo Raffaelebelongs to a chain of three enoteche which serve food. The eatery boasts cheerful service, local clientele and rustic charm, with straw-seated chairs and a small country menu. This is a good option for meals on the run – try the carbonara, thin crust pizzas and tiramisu. La Columbina is more Pugliese than Venetian. The menu is small but marvellous in quality, not to mention quantity. Standout dishes include giant cheese-filled ravioli in a blanket of rich, tomato sauce. The fried seafood plate is superb – a gargantuan mix of battered vegetables, squid, prawns, lobster and fish. Antiche Carampane at San Polo 1911 is almost impossible to find, but its succulent seafood is well worth the trek. The little paper cones filled with the most divine fried water shrimp set the tone for the evening. Be sure to book ahead.
I’d always wanted to arrive in Venice the way they do in the movies. You know – one minute you’re in a chic restaurant in New York talking to Audrey Hepburn about meeting so-and-so in Venice – the next, you somehow magically appear on the Grand Canal gently bobbing along in a gondola. Or if you’re James Bond, a speed-boat accompanied by a John Barry soundtrack, an adoring supermodel at your side.
Which just goes to show that Oprah was right all along about the power of manifestation. Because our arrival at the Palazzo Barbarigo might as well have been a scene straight out of Hollywood: a celluloid moment captured the instant I stepped off the water taxi onto the small marble-clad landing of the hotel. As the boat pulled away, I cast a look behind me, squinting through the dazzle of the shimmering sparkles on the Grand Canal. Bathed in liquid light that spilled off the terracotta rooftops like a benediction, Venice was looking its best. Lined up along both sides of the canal was the breathtaking procession of wonderfully aged palazzos built in every major architectural style since the 12th century: Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. And over this picture-perfect tableau was a dome of blue sky the colour of crushed sapphires.
Stepping into the intimately lit reception lined with glossy black floors, an entire wall of art and photography books, and oversized oval mirrors, I could swear I heard Shirley Bassey in the wings crooning the opening bars of the love theme to this movie in which I was, unexpectedly, the leading man. According to the very genial bartender who poured us killer martinis that evening (‘It’s like mainlining alcohol,’ my partner murmured), the 18-room, two-storey Palazzo Barbarigo was renovated about two years ago by its Contessa owner. ‘This is only a minor annexe of the main palazzo that’s behind us,’ he said, as he brought the drinks out onto the tiny balcony just in time for the twilight to gather up the fading light over the Grand Canal.
Really? Because it doesn’t feel like a minor annexe. From the wide black marbled corridors and deep seated, very comfy chairs in the bar, to the bathroom lined with dark grey stone and enormous four-poster bed in the rooms, everything feels so generously proportioned. Grand and luxurious, but without being stuffy or stiff in any way. There is not an inch of chintz in sight. Instead, the vibe is a seductive mix of art deco meets Baroque meets Moulin Rouge – but in a good way in case you’re envisaging Versace’s palace on acid. Like an old-moneyed Venetian woman in her prime, the Palazzo Barbarigo fairly shimmers with its very own brand of classy yet modern sexiness. It’s voluptuous. You can imagine Monica Belluci staying here.
The walls – edged with gold braids and swathed in a textured, velvety, burgundy hued wallpaper with a delicate floral pattern that I saw again the next day on the walls of the Doge’s Palace – absorb any echo. Massive smoky ceiling mirrors draw light in from the canal so that, despite the darker colour palette, the whole space feels incredibly sensual. Kind of like the feeling you get when you stretch out on a bed that’s sheathed in silky white linen. Only, this time you get that feeling even when you’re in the vertical position.
Clearly, nothing has been left to chance and I half suspect that a Type A control freak was in charge of the renovations and fit-out. How else do you explain the acres of mocha-hued drapes that so completely envelop the windows that not a single ray of sunshine creeps into the room to disturb your sleep? Forgot to pack bedroom slippers? There are two pairs of fluffy red numbers with the same floral pattern as the walls. Does your partner have a habit of hogging the duvets? Fret not. The bed is made up with two single duvets. Need to watch TV in the bathroom? Press a button and a small TV screen that’s literally embedded into the vanity mirror comes on. And, this is where the Type A personality comment comes in, because the screen never fogs over, even from the steam from the rainshower. In a decade of hotel reviewing, I’ve never been in a hotel where a little bottle quietly labelled ‘Intimate cleanser’ is placed discreetly next to the bidet. It’s a little touch, but it speaks volumes. (About the hotel you understand, not me.)
The next morning, the musical sound of gently lapping water floating in through the open window woke me. The Contessa obviously doesn’t believe in rushing about because there is no clock in the entire hotel; but the fact that breakfast hours are from 8am to noon means that it doesn’t really matter much what time you decide to stumble into the bijou dining room. Which is just as well, as I was delayed for some time at my bedroom window watching an immaculately dressed elderly man slowly climb out of the water taxi in the canal below me. Once he’d found his footing, he turned to extend a shaking hand to the grand old dame, dressed to the nines, swaying about in the boat. Then, arm in arm, they slowly tottered across the cobbled courtyard and disappeared into the palazzo. Visconti could not have framed the moment more delicately.
‘Only in Venice,’ I thought, as I headed to breakfast hoping I’d bump into either the Contessa or, at the very least, Monica Belluci. There’s no menu – but eggs done any way are a matter of course for the kitchen. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice appeared followed by a platter of cut fruit, warm pastries and hot brewed coffee. ‘Just like home, really,’ I Tweeted grandly while marvelling at the quality of the light bouncing in from the Grand Canal off the ceiling mirror.
But like home, you have to leave it eventually. And like everything in Venice, the memories of the Barbarigo – that stolen moment watching the elderly couple in the canal below the bedroom window, the crisp tang of the apricot jam at breakfast, the deep cocoon-like sleep on the huge double bed – all are immediately tinted with a wonderful nostalgia. And even as you step out into the extravagant sunshine and hear, in the distance, pealing church bells, you try to hold on to the moment. You can’t, of course. But it’s why you keep coming back.