Asian-style simplicity meets 16th century excess in Venice at the Aman’s first Italian property, writes Andrew Forbes.
In a world of ostentatious excess, it is now genuine exclusivity, personalised service and discretion that are the true hallmarks of an upscale hotel experience.
The Aman Canal Grande Venice, is an exquisitely presented hotel, within a Venetian palazzo, where one finds refined contemporary aesthetics, exceptional accommodation within palatial surroundings and discreet, attentive service.
…this is the new ultra-luxury
The Baroque-style Palazzo Papadopoli, on the Venice’s incomparable Grand Canal, has been meticulously restored (2014); a place where the Aman signature minimalism harmonises beautifully with the palace’s Rococo and Neo-Renaissance furniture, frescos, classic art and flamboyant Murano crystal chandeliers.
Arrive aboard Casino Royale
Venice’s modest Marco Polo airport is about 35 minutes from this lagoon city. The transfer to the hotel is of course by boat; guests are whisked to the Aman in stylish elegance aboard the property’s 1930 style ‘Casino Royale’ – a beautiful custom-built boat, in vintage style, made from polished amber and honey hued wood – which makes the journey a memorable start to one’s stay.
Once ensconced in this extraordinary palace, it feels like Venice just can’t get any better. George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin certainly thought so, as they chose this stunning 16th century pad for their wedding reception and wedding night.
…the greatest city treasures of all, a canal-side garden
The property is in the heart of this lagoon city, yet boasts one of the greatest city treasures of all, a large garden beside the Grand Canal; a place to sit under parasols and enjoy a spritz.
There is also a rooftop terrace, where if you’re lucky you might bump into the young aristocratic owners, Giberto and Bianca, the Count and Countess Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga, who still live in the palace with their family, in an apartment on the 5th floor.
The salons of the palace retain all their original magical grandeur – abundant crystal chandeliers hang from the frescoed ceilings, gilt mirrors, and extravagantly sculpted baroque fireplaces make one feel as if you have entered a period movie; yet bringing a sense of tranquillity and serenity is the Aman signature interior style of elegant, paired back minimalism, created by Jean Michel Gathy of Denniston Architects (and the structural engineering and architecture by Venice-based Claudio Rebeschini and the Dottor Group).
Throughout this year’s Venice Biennale art festival, ‘Viva Arte Viva’ you can enjoy 7 monumental sculptures by Japanese artist Kan Yasuda, located throughout the property.
Check-in is on-point; from the moment one steps off the deck of the Casino Royale onto the hotel’s ‘porta d’acqua’ private jetty entrance, one’s feet barely touch the ground.
The entrance salon is suitable grandiose for such a remarkable Venetian building – eccentric items like 16th century ships lanterns decorate the lofty space, whilst the floor of chequered marble is free of the normal hotel reception clutter. Don’t expect the classic layout of check-in desk and concierge; instead there are a few chairs, and two discreet podiums in true Aman style, where one can find the hotel’s talented concierge and front desk staff – part of a team headed by General Manager, Claudia Schwarze.
I was led up the grand trompe-l’oeil staircase to The Bar for a classic spritz.
One can sit at the ebony bar with its contemporary bar seating or at the low tables; lean back and enjoy the painted ceilings and chandeliers from a bygone era; or take in the view of the sunset sky over the grand canal in this historic San Polo district of the floating city.
After a brief orientation tour of the palazzo, including its boutique ballroom and chic salons of the upper and lower levels of the Piano Nobile, I’m taken to my room, one of 24 that offer views of the hotel’s private canal-side garden or the grand canal itself.
…sleep with priceless art treasures
The five signature suites include the Alcova Tiepolo Suite with its Chinoiserie sitting room, and 18th-century frescoes by Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo;
…or the Sansovino Stanza suite with 16th-century fireplace designed by Sansovino, wood panelling and carved ceiling.
My favourite was room 7, the Grand Canal Suite with fabulous views of the Grand Canal – ideal for a family room as it can connect with the neighbouring room 6, a Palazzo Stanza room.
I stayed in a Palazzo Chamber Luminoso room – these south-facing, light filled spacious rooms are configured as a Junior Suite, with separate seating area of twin lounge chairs. Views are out across the private garden and on towards the Grand Canal. Period features include classic, polished terrazzo floors, soaring ceilings and vintage windows opening onto the garden. The Aman décor, fixtures, fittings and furniture are the same across all rooms.
The king size bed was elegantly dressed in silk cushions, placed upon brilliant white linens. Contemporary entertainment technology included B&O TV and a large iPod speaker.
The windows opened out on to the large canal-side garden, and the vie extended out across the grand canal to the pastel coloured buildings on the other side.
The armoire in the seating area was home to a generous mini bar of Ferrari Maximum Rosé prosecco; fruit juices, Fever Tree tonics and artisan beers – and plenty of mineral water too. Fresh fruit, cookies and jars of candies and nuts complete the in-room goodies (all included in the room rate and restocked at turndown when you can also expect a charming little gold box, tied with ribbon, a gift of chocolates).
The bathroom was cavernous, with large dressing area. The amenities include a box full of all the grooming essentials one might need. Twin washbasins within a huge vanity, together with a bathtub, separate rain shower make for a relaxing spa-like feel.
As a guest at the Aman Venice Canal Grande, one can enjoy the palace as one’s own. Breakfast can be served whenever you want, wherever you want.
Choose The Red Dining Room with its Tiepolo painted ceiling, or take a table in the window overlooking the canal in The Yellow Dining Room with its exquisite silk covered walls; or better still, simply stay in your room and have breakfast in bed.
During the day, taking a break from exploding La Serenissima, and her galleries, once can retreat to the hotel’s garden for a refreshing spritz and some local ciccheti snacks.
locally sourced ingredients
Michelin-starred chef, Davide Oldani has lent his hand to the design of the menu of Mediterranean and Venetian dishes, including slow-cooked Pork belly; and sea bass with black cabbage. The Restaurant and The Bar are open to non-guests.
Chef de cuisine Andrea Torre and his team promise locally sourced ingredients from the nearby rialto markets; produce from the neighbouring islands and from the waters of the lagoon and Adriatic.
I particularly enjoyed the fresh burrata with Sicilian pistachios, and the lobster tagliolini, followed by the black cod with oyster sauce.
This is the place for impeccable Venetian hospitality – from a friendly and surprisingly young staff; within a breath-taking noble setting.
Architect Giacomo De Grigi probably didn’t have 21st century spas in mind when he imagined the Palazzo Papadopoli in the 1500s, yet somehow Aman has managed to create a wellness space within the palace. Three beautifully appointed treatment rooms on a third-floor mezzanine level in the garden building, together with a fitness studio on the fourth offer facilities for these looking to be pampered and invigorated.
A stay at this wondrous Venetian palace are from 950 euro per room per night including breakfast and minibar.