Time withers all – but not Palazzo Venart, a 16th-century Venetian palace with a new lease of life. Marble furnishings, parquet flooring and antiques and artworks a-go-go woo guests’ eyes; a two-Michelin-star chef woos guests’ tummies. The hotel also boasts a prime Grand Canal perch – any closer and you’d be sleeping in it – instead, stay dry, bed down in one of the palazzo’s opulent rooms and spy on the Bride of the Sea in all her watery glory from your windows. Palazzo Venart doesn’t stint on charms for landlubbers, too: the gorgeous gardens (a real boon for Venice) for starters...
Get this when you book through us:
Aperitivo for two; book a Luxury Suite Open Plan or a Luxury Suite Open Plan Grand Canal for two nights or more and you’ll also get a free one-way transfer from the hotel to Marco Polo Airport or Santa Lucia station
Noon; earliest check-in, noon. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £306.10 (€360), 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-out.
Rates usually exclude à la carte breakfast. If you book a Luxury room or suite, one-way transfer from Marco Polo Airport or Venice's train station are included.
The palace has a very distinguished history: it has housed some of the city’s most respected figures and hosted elite events and parties.
At the hotel
Gorgeous gardens; courtyard; direct access to the Grand Canal; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, desk, minibar, Etro bath products, bathrobes, slippers.
Our favourite rooms
The world’s first famous female author, Christine de Pizan, hailed from Venice; honour her memory by bedding down in the suite that shares her name. In addition to its feminist credentials, this suite has wooden wall panels, parquet flooring, swag-tastic furnishings and a cosy lounge with impressive views of the Grand Canal. For something with a more masculine heritage, opt for the Lord Byron Suite, which has a covetable parquet floor, walls clad in silk and plenty of secret thrills in store: a bath tub tucked away behind a partition by the bed, a hidden seating area where you can lounge (and read works by the famous poet, natch) and more…
Forgiving waistbands for maximum bigoli-consumption.
The hotel is suitable for wheelchair-users: there are lifts between communal areas and bedrooms, and two of the ground-floor Classic Rooms are step-free.
Little Smiths are welcome; the hotel can lend parents cots or cribs, baby bedlinen, highchairs and booster seats. That said, it’s a very glamorous, grown-up palazzo, better suited to adults.
The hotel uses LED light bulbs, seasonal local produce and ethical suppliers. Guests can walk to the hotel from the city’s train station. Venice itself is a conscientious city, using recycled water in all its modern renovation projects.
Nab a table in the courtyard, so you can enjoy the perfumed magnolia blossom.
Dress for star-quality food (jeans are a no-no).
Acclaimed chef Enrico Bartolini captains the helm at Palazzo Veneto’s two Michelin star Glam restaurant, set in a courtyard planted with fragrant magnolia trees and overlooking the Grand Canal. Glam by name, glam by nature; expect classic Venetian cuisine jazzed up with modern updates: spaghetti with smoked eel and wild fennel; fried moeche (soft-shell crab) served with artichokes and pink sauce; risotto with porcini and curry (reported to be delicious).
Dinner is served until 11pm; breakfast service stops at 10.30am.
Order from the full menu while the restaurant is open (there’s a limited service once it closes). Drinks can be requested around the clock.
The hotel is located in elegant Santa Croce, overlooking the Grand Canal.
Venice Marco Polo International Airport is 13km away, a 20-minute drive (www.veniceairport.it/en). Hotel transfers start from €120 each way; guests hop in a water-taxi that deposits them directly outside the hotel’s Grand Canal entrance. You could also fly into Treviso, which is a 40-minute drive away – hotel transfers from Treviso start from €150, one-way.
Venice Santa Lucia station is just one kilometre from the hotel, a 10-minute drive; there are high-speed connections to other Italian cities such as Rome, Bologna, Milan and Florence. You can easily walk from the station to Palazzo Venart, as long as you’re not weighed down with Imelda Marcos-style luggage.
The hotel is 800 metres away from the main Venetian carpark, which you can access from the SR11 road from Mestre, following signs to Venezia. Be warned: parking is eye-wateringly expensive (around €50 a day)
Catch the vaporetto (water-bus) from the any stop to San Stae, which is close by, or take a water-taxi directly to the hotel's private drop-off point on the Grand Canal. When in Venice, and all that...
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s waterside perch makes it one of the most romantic places in the most romantic of cities. When/if you tire of unabashed romance, staff can arrange excursions to the local museums, the island of Murano (where you can learn about glass-blowing) and the historic Ghetto, the city’s original Jewish quarter. The city’s oldest bridge, the Rialto, is a short walk away, acting as a dividing line between San Marco and San Polo. Sip a bellini in PiazzaSan Marco, cruise in a gondola and marvel at the Palazzo Ducale. Titian is buried in 14th-century Frari Basilica in the Campo San Polo; two of his works still hang there. Sculpture-clad San Rocco is a Byzantine beauty with gilded ceilings, and Tintoretto’s brushwork adorns the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. In January and February, catch the pageantry of the Venice Carnival; modern-art maelstrom, the Venice Biennale, kicks off on 1 June (on odd-numbered years).
When in Italy, it’s obligatory to eat pizza; get yours at Antico Forno on Calle de L'ogio o de la Rugheta. Tiny bacaroAll’Arco opens for lunch on Saturdays (+39 041 520 5666), serving cicchetti (small plates), including a lauded baccalà mantecato (salted cod on toast). 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).
You’ll definitely need a gelato pit-stop (or two, three, four or five); bookmark Gelateria Ca' d'Oro on Strada Nova (+39 041 522 8982).
Pause for a drink at Harry's Bar on Calle Vallaresso in San Marco. Enoteca Vineria All’Amarone has reds and whites from Veneto, Friuli and Tuscany, ranging from reasonable to wallet-crippling, with a few rare selections thrown in. Wines are available by the glass too, and tempting cicchetti are dished up on the side.
We arrived in Venice, for our two-night break in Palazzo Venart hot and travel-worn (Mr Smith had flown back from a trip to Vietnam just 24 hours earlier). We perked up on leaping into a buffed-to-a-shine, wooden water taxi – reminiscent of the glorious mahogany Riva yachts that zip across the northern Italian lakes – which would transport us into another world.
Our captain expertly maneuvered us into a narrow, two-lane boat highway, skillfully overtaking laggards wherever possible. We powered towards the emergent Venetian skyline – thrilling at the city’s ancient beauty – and a few minutes later, we bobbed into the main stream of the Grand Canal.
Bam. There we were, in the middle of a veritable feast of architecture.
Our young, tanned and confident helmsman madly gesticulated to a local to ‘get a move on’; the completely unresponsive idler went about his business at sunset speed. All was at it should be: we were on Venice time.
The water taxi (or motoscafo, as the locals say) is not cheap at around €120 an hour, but worth the wow factor if this is your first visit. We were deposited on the hotel jetty and met by a smiling receptionist who escorted us through the garden and into the elegant lobby. The hotel manager, Angelo, appeared to oversee our check-in and warmly welcome us in his deep, gravelly voice.
Palazzo Venart, a 16th-century minibreak-sized manse, which has been lovingly restored over the past two years, opened its doors in the summer of 2016. It comes highly recommended.
Our Prestige Room (one of just 18 rooms and suites) was cool (certainly no clattering air-conditioning unit here) and extravagantly decorated with velvet curtains, wood beams crafted from parts of the Doge’s barge and silk wall coverings. It overlooked the peaceful internal courtyard, which had a gently trickling fountain, orange trees, figs and a carpet of white flowers.
Our bathroom – integrated into the bedroom – was kitted out with bath products designed in collaboration with fashion house Etro and the Scent Company.
The excitement was too much – we sank into the soft bed for some brief shut-eye, as church bells softly pealed in the distance.
The same friendly receptionist gave us excellent recommendations for local restaurants – we guessed she was new to the job, but nevertheless eager and helpful. Staff work hard here: the same professional and discreet team looked after us morning, noon and night for our entire stay.
Breakfast is held either in the shaded internal courtyard or indoors. It’s a highly choreographed à la carte affair – no buffet in sight. To start, a slice of baguette with butter, fruit and of pastries, omelettes with tomato – everything we ate was fresh and flavourful, and nothing was too much trouble. Even when we materialised five minutes before breakfast was due to finish, we were well fed.
This is the Santa Croce district, which is very peaceful, yet a short walk from the lively San Polo area (where you’ll find the Rialto, Basilica and other star sights) – although, you’re rarely far from anything in Venice.
With no traffic jostling for street space, Venice is a pavement-pounder’s heaven. There are unspoken rules for all watercraft – vaporetti weave their way from side to side, carrying tourists and Venetians alike; but here gondolas seem to be king. Ask reception for an ACTV pass so you can hop on and off – the San Stae vaporetto stop is right next door to the palazzo.
And so, to the most important aspect of Italian (and particularly Venetian) life: the food… Palazzo Venart houses the Glam restaurant, which is helmed by the much venerated, two Michelin-star winning chef, Enrico Bartolini. It’s a must-try – but avoid our rookie error of munching on minibar pistachios and then ordering room service (wine with a plate of soppressata-style salami) just before dining.
Still, we powered through, ordering the eight-course degustation menu. We weren’t prepared for the prelude of 10 amuse-bouches that arrived, but we finished every last morsel. The knowledgeable and likeable sommelier expertly paired our feast with delicious wine after delicious wine. For me, the delicate and beautifully composed rabbit ballotine with girolles was the standout dish. Enrico, clearly delighted to have an audience for his artistic creations, gave us his full attention for nearly two hours.
Venice had been at the top of my travel wish-list for so many years, and after finally visiting it did not disappoint. Go, and soon – as one of the most visited cities in Europe (with around 20 million people passing through in a year), the authorities are considering limiting the number of tourists. But, in the meantime, book between June to September – its busiest season – and discover the best of this beguiling spot. Just be sure to rest your head and feed your soul at Palazzo Venart.