Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy - Review
Puttin' on the Cip
Aerial view of Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy
many historic lodgings that try to keep up with the times
by playing the hip card, Hotel Cipriani doesn't
cater to whim. This Venice favorite was founded on tradition,
and to tradition it remains loyal. It closes for the winter
season and reopens in the spring, usually to reveal some
great new enhancement. Dining at the Fortuny Terrace Restaurant
means donning ties, gentlemen; it also means being treated
like a gentleman (or lady) in this fast food era of pandering
to the casual lifestyle at the expense of elegance and
grace. As for fine wines, the hotel does more than simply
serve them. It grows its own grapes right on the grounds.
this makes the Cip — as it's known to its devotees — sound
stodgy, and perhaps even a bit full of itself, rest assured.
It's not. From the moment you board the hotel's
launch (it runs round the clock) at its private landing
stage at San Marco Square, you'll understand why
this property is considered one of the finest in the world.
Firstly, there's its location. When Giuseppe Cipriani,
co-founder of the notorious Harry's Bar, told his
well-to-do friends and patrons about his dream to build
the ultimate luxury hotel on a three-acre estate on the
tip of Guidecca Island, they recognized a good thing and
the 18th century, Giudecca served as a retreat for both
nobles and common city dwellers, who came to take advantage
of the fresh air. By the late 1950s, when Cipriani built
his hotel, it was still a secluded destination, reachable
only by water. The new building was constructed to blend
in with the Renaissance structures that surrounded it,
and it immediately attracted celebrities and royalty,
in much the same way that Harry's Bar drew luminaries
such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. One thing was certainly
clear: Cipriani had the magic touch.
the Hotel Cipriani is a small, exclusive complex that
includes the main hotel, two "palaces" — the
Palazzo Vendramin and Palazzetto Nani Barbaro — and
lavish gardens. When the property was purchased by James
B. Sherwood, founder of Orient Express Hotels Ltd., from
the Guinness family (of the Guinness brewing empire) changes
were made, including the addition of luscious new suites.
Overall, though, Sherwood's renovations followed
the philosophy that if it ain't broke, don't
fix it. In style, the hotel is much as it was when Cipriani
opened it: opulent and luxuriously livable.
The 82 guestrooms and suites overlook either the gardens, the lagoon or St. Mark's Square. Each accommodation has been individually
designed, and those in the palazzos are the most desirable,
especially since many feature floor-to-ceiling windows
gazing over the water to the Doge's Palace. The
celebrated Palladio Suite (with a secluded private garden
and outdoor heated pool) now has competition from the
newer Dogaressa Suite, extravagantly graced with antique
Chinese lamps, Coromandel screens, Fortuny and Rubelli
fabrics and the largest sitting room in the 15th century
Palazzo Vendramin. All rooms are generously equipped with
basic amenities (including Wi-Fi), and depending on where
you stay, you may find a few little extras, such as a
kitchenette, a button to summon a private butler or a
TV that rises out of a glass-topped table.
its accommodations are beyond reproach, the Cipriani would
not enjoy its stellar reputation without its Casanova
Gardens. Named for the lascivious lothario who used these
very grounds to carry on his affair with Caterina Capretta
and lay in wait for ladies from the nearby Old Maid's
College, they once belonged to the wife of the Doge. With
their cypress, pomegranate, hanging maple and lavender,
they are as romantic today as they were during those Renaissance
of our favorite features is their adjacent vineyard, source
of the grapes for the hotel's own Casanova Salso,
which is bottled by J.B. Sherwood winery in Tuscany. Historically,
Guidecca produced a vintage known as “vin salso,”
named for the characteristic salty aftertaste caused by
the proximity of the lagoon; but by the 1900s, production
had ceased, and as a result, the hotel's efforts
in viticulture resulted in the first harvest of grapes
in Venice since the 18th century.
the culinary standing established by Giuseppe Cipriani
with the foundation of Harry's Bar, it's no
wonder the Hotel Cipriani has a fabulous dining scene.
The Cipriani Restaurant (adorned with arches, domes and
blown glass), the Terrace Restaurant (surrounded by flowers
and fountains) and Cip's Club (with its magnificent
waterfront patio), are all guided by chef Renato Piccolotto.
Piccolotto began his career at the Villa Cipriani in Asolo,
where he had the opportunity to train directly under Giuseppe.
He has been at the Hotel Cipriani since 1970, and has
been Chef de Cuisine since 1990. Of note are the hotel's
cooking classes, which are offered as packages throughout
the year. Greats such as the late Julia Child have participated,
and the classes are now enhanced by the on-site presence
of the Laboratory of Venetian Cooking, which researches
and develops ancient recipes of the Veneto.
Cipriani is home to the Casanova Wellness Centre, whose collection of
treatment areas includes a Couple Massage cabin and a fitness center with a steam bath and sauna. In addition, a spacious heated swimming
pool (the only one of its kind in Venice), red clay tennis
court and docking facilities give the property a resort
atmosphere. But despite being handcrafted for leisure,
the hotel is also well-equipped for business, with meeting
and event spaces throughout the grounds, including garden
areas and a pair of historic granary buildings.
these ways, the hotel is prepared to meet the needs of
21st-century travelers. Yet it does so without sacrificing
the qualities that made it great from the start. Under
the gracious direction of Maurizio Saccani, the Hotel Cipriani
is a place where old-fashioned rules of etiquette reign.
Whether you're here (along with the 1,500 boats
that gather in the lagoon) to watch the midnight fireworks
of the annual Redentore Feast or simply to retreat from
the pressures of daily life, you'll find yourself
embraced by traditions that are sure to remain strong
for centuries to come.
(Updated: 03/20/13 KNF)