You can rely on Italians to come up with the unexpected, like having a comic run for president. Some of the surprises are stylish, some are simply mad. The crane soaring 165 feet high over Orient-Express’ Cipriani in Venice fits both those categories, says the gal. Which other luxury hotel would invest ‘substantially’ in taking 22 lucky diners sky-high, and down again? Well, in case anyone wants to do the same, here is the recipe. First, rent a crane.
Try to get a crane on a floating pontoon as if you have it on the manicured lawns of, say, some pad in Palm Beach the greens would be dented for years to come. Hire an imaginative events company, in this case 5th Events, with experience of taking people up to be angels, or flying firefighters or even air-borne diners. The events company, being Italian, will send a catwalk of muscular good-lookers to work the floor, or rather the pontoon. Make sure you have all necessary local permits in place – at Cipriani, GM Giampaolo Ottazzi says this took a full year. Make sure you have spoken to your insurance person and hope he/she is friendly.
Rent a table, with a base, and chairs, attached. The table needs a hole in the middle for two barmen. The chairs need to have aircraft-type seatbelts. It is a good idea to have a cover over the whole kaboosh in case it rains, or birds fly over. Obviously you have advertised it extensively, and there will be no shortage of people wanting to go up – if you are doing this in Germany you will make most money as the diners will turn up on time, there will be quicker turnround on the ground so you can ‘turn the tables’ more often than in, say, the Middle East, where every lift-off is bound to be delayed.
The events guys strut around as if each is Brad Pitt in a yellow hard hat. They wear so much safety equipment you wonder if it is they, not you, about to go into space. The table begins to be raised, up to 165 feet total. As it goes up, Pommery is poured, and poured again. If it is a dinner rather than a drinks-only sailing (sorry, flight) you can make the most of the amazing 360-degree views over Venice – if you are trying to down the spaghetti, too, a bit of attention is needed for that. Drop spaghetti overboard and the uplookers below will not be happy.
Up there, you know you are the centre of attention. Not only are there spectators below but across in the Piazza San Marco, and on the terrace restaurant on top of the Danieli, hundreds are taking photos of you. You know you are a select few. Only 22 can go up at once, and of course every journalist in town, in fact in Italy, wanted to try it, and the fact that this extravaganza only went on for five nights made it even more special. At the end of the week, the crane pulled in its extension, and the whole thing floated away. The 5th Events guys put away their yellow hardhats and their dinner in the sky t-shirts and go wherever.
Fortunately the joy of the Cipriani remains. If you want a memory of a lifetime, dine on the outside deck of its CIPS Club restaurant. This time of year, you can sit right over the water (Canale della Giudecca) looking across to San Marco. When the turbot comes to be presented before being taken off the bone, and as you take another sip of the Argentiera 2007 Bolgheri, you are, once again, confident that you chose the right luxury hotel for tonight.