Perfect for families, the Westin
Excelsior is located near the beach.
No matter how many times you visit Venice, you can’t help but be
enchanted by its serenading gondoliers, Renaissance palaces,
canal-side trattorias and the ever-present pigeons fluttering
around St. Mark’s Square. And while steeped in history, much of the
city’s energy is devoted to tourism. That translates into a great
selection of hotels when choosing accommodations from which to
enjoy the city’s charms.
Couples seeking a quiet, romantic, good-value choice need look no
further than the Palazzo Abadessa. The 16th-century palace,
recently converted into a private hotel residence complete with
Tintoretto paintings and stained-glass windows, is conveniently
located just a 15-minute walk from St. Mark’s.
This is the quintessential un-hotel. Staying here feels like
you’re visiting owner Maria Luisa Rossi as a family friend. (She
has a private apartment on the top floor.) When in town, she
invites guests to join her in the garden for a late afternoon glass
of chilled Prosecco (Italy’s version of champagne). Or before
heading out to dinner, help yourself to complimentary wines and
snacks thoughtfully set out in the majestic marble hall.
Palazzo Abadessa is quiet and romantic,
as well as a good value.
Each of the nine rooms and four suites are elaborately decorated
with antique furniture, hand-woven silk wall coverings and Murano
chandeliers. You can’t go wrong with any, except perhaps the
smallest room, which is too tiny to comfortably unfold a suitcase.
My favorite is Room 26, with an exposed timber beam ceiling,
blue-and-gold striped silk-covered walls, stone fireplace and a
bathroom with an original giant stone sink (formerly the kitchen
sink). There’s no elevator, but a helpful doorman will carry your
bags up the grand double staircase.
Breakfast, which is included, is a treat. Loading up our silver
trays with fresh fruit salad, warm croissants and cake, boiled eggs
and sliced ham and cheeses, we ate in the tranquility of the walled
garden. A waitress served us as many cappuccinos as we could
Westin Excelsior/Hotel Des Bains
The beach island of Lido is a great option for escaping the crowds
that flock to Venice in the summer and for families who want to
swim after sightseeing (no hotels in Venice itself have pools).
A complimentary water taxi (15-minute ride) connects guests
staying at the hotel to Venice. Built as a long-stay resort hotel
at the beginning of the 20th century, the Excelsior’s 193 rooms and
suites are lovely and spacious. Reflecting a whimsical
Moorish-style decor, they feature arches and ivory lattice
woodwork. No need to book a more pricey seaview room rooms with a
courtyard view are just as enticing (though corner rooms looking
out to the Venice skyline and lagoon are perhaps the best
The Excelsior enjoys an enviable location right on the beach.
But you pay extra for one of the white cabanas lined up in rows
(most are rented by Venetians for the summer to use on weekends),
and the gray sand can be hot. We were content to relax by the pool
overlooking the beach.
Clients can hop on the free mini-bus for the five-minute drive
to the Excelsior’s sister Starwood property, the “Belle Epoque”
Hotel Des Bains, described in Thomas Mann’s 1913 novel “Death in
Venice.” It boasts a large swimming pool in a beautiful garden
setting, where you can enjoy an oh-so-elegant poolside lunch under
the trees. For some reason, the Excelsior is rated five-star while
the Bains is only four-star, but don’t let this quirky rating deter
you if you want to bed down at the Hotel Des Bains instead of the
Both hotels are open from March to October.
Hotel Cipriani is the hotel to the stars.
Here, clients can dine at the famous
For the ultimate splurge, make like the movie stars do when they
descend on the Venice Film Festival each September and book the
Hotel Cipriani. The atmosphere is “private country estate” at this
serene Orient-Express property, set amid lush gardens on Guidecca
Island. Expect unparalleled service, of course the hotel has one
staff member per guest. A private mahogany motor launch runs 24
hours to St. Mark’s square, which is about a seven-minute ride from
The hotel itself has 88 pink rooms, with a mix of wicker and
faux antique furniture. Linked to the hotel through an ancient
courtyard and flowered loggia is the Palazzo Vendramin, a
15th-century residence which has 10 two-bedroom apartments for
Cipriani guests, each featuring a private entrance hall, sitting
room, two baths and a kitchen. There’s also the adjoining
Palazzetto Nani Barbaro with five suites. All palazzo suites have
personal butler service.
Make sure to dine by candlelight at the Fortuny Restaurant
(gentlemen must wear jackets, even on very warm evenings). We
started with a Bellini in the courtyard while perusing the menu,
before moving to the outdoor terrace, overlooking the lagoon, to
feast on fresh sea bass and the hotel’s signature thin green pasta
noodles with ham au gratin.
And what about a “SeaCreation Treatment Facial” in the Casanova
Spa? The room dedicated to this is equipped with a Dolby surround
system and flat plasma screen which projects images and sounds of
the sea, and aquatic colored fiber optics illuminate the ceiling.
Or play a game on the hotel’s tennis court or swim in its inviting
Olympic-sized saltwater pool.
The hotel is open April to November and the Palazzo suites are
open all year.
|NOT TO BE MISSED|
I never tire of taking the vaporetto (public water bus) ride along
the entire length of the Grand Canal from the bus station to St.
Mark’s Square surely one of the world’s most picturesque and
cheapest boat rides. Clients can see the facades of some 200
palaces built between the 12th and 18th centuries, gondolas and
boats ferrying supplies, ancient bridges and well-dressed Venetians
going about their daily lives.
Go wild buying inexpensive silk ties and beautiful Murano glass
bead costume jewelry. (Skip the shops on pricey Murano Island and
scout around the Rialto district instead.)
Here, clients can take a guided tour, where artwork by painters
like Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese is brought to life. Visitors
also learn about the history of Venice as a democratic republic,
admire the gold-leaf ceiling above the gold staircase and walk over
the Bridge of Sighs connecting the prison cells. (The name
supposedly came from the sighs of inmates as they caught the last
sight of Venice while being led to their execution.)
Visitors can linger over cappuccino at an outdoor cafe and savor
the atmosphere of this impossibly gorgeous city.