If Venice is a theatre, Hotel Cipriani is the “Royal Box”, or so the saying goes. It’s little wonder that when celebrities George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow are in town for the Venice Film Festival, there’s only one place they choose to stay; the iconic Hotel Cipriani.
Just four minutes by private launch from St.Mark’s Square, on the tip of Giudecca Island, this iconic Belmond hotel commands unrivalled views of the lagoon and Doge’s Palace. The only access to the hotel is by water taxi or the hotel’s beautifully restored sleek mahogany speedboats, and as we bounce gently along the waves with the panorama of Venice all around us, it does indeed feel like we’re in a movie.
Arriving at the hotel is an experience in itself, and as the boat pulls up to the hotel entrance we’re greeted with a hearty “Buon giorno!” We find ourselves in beautiful gardens amid a relaxed resort style atmosphere of a secluded country house.
The sense of privacy and exclusivity abounds, and it feels a world away from the bustling nature of Venice. All 95 rooms have wonderful views of either the lagoon to the south, the church and monastery of Palladian San Giorgio Maggiore to the east, or the walled-gardens and vineyards of Casanova to the west.
Some of the suites even border the glamorous Olympic size swimming pool with its elegant lounges and market umbrellas.
Interiors are beautiful, decorated with exquisite Venetian artefacts, fabrics by Fortuny and Rubelli and bathrooms which feature Carrara marble, Byzantine-Venetian style mosaics and Bulgari products.
But it is the exceptionally beautiful pieces of famous Murano glass which hold pride of place. Whether it’s the intricately coloured glass tumblers on the bedside table or the spectacular coloured Murano glass chandelier in the Suites, the decor is unique, striking and fittingly Venetian.
We’re spoilt for choice when dining and the Cipriani food is simple, fresh and perfectly prepared - it’s classic cuisine with an innovative twist.
The fine-dining Fortuny Restaurant and terrace features gilt mirrors and Murano glass chandeliers with extensive views across the lagoon. It harks back to the days of old-fashioned elegance where guests ‘dress for dinner’. The more informal restaurant, Cip’s Club, is a fixed over-water pontoon which lies in front of the Palazzo Vendramin.
This 15th century beautifully restored palazzo is adjacent to Hotel Cipriani and both the restaurant and the Palazzo are reached by foot through Hotel Cipriani’s private walled gardens and feature views overlooking Piazza San Marco.
The Cipriani can arrange a private dinner for two in any number of special locations including the Casanova Garden, the poolside lawn or the unforgettable Palazzo Vendramin’s Dogaressa Suite which features striking views over the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square through arched windows.
A private waiter (in optional cloak and mask dressed as a ‘Casanova Spy’!) is at your service, and with the table set with precious lace fabrics, Murano glasses, abundant candlelight, soft jazz music and a ‘Menu of Love’ created especially for the event.
The perfect night ends with gentle live music at the Il Gabbiano Bar for a nightcap, and fittingly, one simply must order the ‘Buona Notte’ cocktail that was created by George Clooney himself!
It’s easy to imagine what the hotel must be like during the Venice Film Festival and why so many celebrities choose to stay at the Hotel Cipriani. Despite the hotel being extensively modernised, it actually bears little sign of change and has an elegant dignity and charm that remains intact, irrespective of fleeting fads and fashions.
We’ll drink to that.