Hotel Cipriani is well versed in everything that today’s lady of leisure wants when she is in Venice. This luxury hotel has been looking after discerning Americans, Brits – and everyone through to the end of the alphabet, but probably not many Zulus – since Giuseppe Cipriani set up shop here in 1958. Over the last couple of years it has botoxed itself to such a degree that it seems younger, and more fun, than ever. This is a luxury hotel for honeymooners, for those with kids of all ages, and even, says the gal, for single women who need a break.
I absolutely adore room 76 in the Palazzo Vendramin building, which dates back to the 15th century. Wake up, turn left and you look across Canale della Giudecca to San Marco. Wow, what a view. Those on honeymoon might never move – the room is actually a suite, and comes with its own kitchen. But I headed down to breakfast, on the restaurant’s outside terrace. Of course the coffee, in a traditional silver pot, is strong, and the ricotta divine (Italians love their cheeses and cold cuts at breakfast, and their chocolate cake).
It is then a seven minutes’ walk back to the Palazzo, through part of the five acres of garden that include a vineyard, and a herb area, and grottos and arbours for quiet sitting. There is an overall perfume of white jasmine. Statues range from classical stone to unfathomable modern bronzes.
What to do for the rest of the day? Take the on-demand shuttle, in a shiny slipper launch, across to San Marco (six minutes total), to check out Armani through to Zegna (yes, can do the whole alphabet here), or yet another church (Venice has 400), or the Guggenheim or what? Why not lie by the heated-seawater pool, all of 190 feet long, or even swim a couple of lengths – the equivalent of ten lengths in most hotel’s pools? A foot massage in the spa sounds like a good idea. This is a hotel where guests meander. No-one walks fast. As you stroll between one area and another you realize the Cipriani has actually sensational boutiques, for things like Italian embroidered linens, and bathrobes, negligées and frocks and resort outfits, here. You do not even need to go across to the main island.
Next time I think I will bring a sketchbook and watercolours and try to catch an artistic impression of some of the areas I have strolled past. This would be highly appropriate – the menu covers and all paper work inside my room have painted covers. The notecard used by hotel GM Giampaolo Ottazzi even shows him, in front of a bit of the garden, stylized in watercolour (he holds the card up here, in the photo, almost as if it is a prison mugshot with him holding his number). This guy has a great sense of humour. Today he wears co-respondent shoes. Last year he had the idea for putting diners up at the top of a 165-foot crane, which resulted in the recent highly successful dinner in the sky promotion.
This is a hotel for meeting long-time friends and for making new ones. It is also an ambience for creative ideas (Giulio Gentile, from Orient-Express’ Florence base, is one of those people who sparks new ideas – oh gosh, after dinner in the sky, what next from this, Venice, luxury hotel?). We sit around our dinner table, not high in the sky but firmly on the deck cantilevered over Canale della Giudecca, and watch the sunset. This is a hotel that just makes you even more aware of your senses.