What better way to begin a relaxing two weeks in the South of France than by starting off in Venice. Nothing but art, food and getting lost in the labyrinthine ancient alleys, and touring the equally maze-like canals by gondola. I surprised my wife with this plan. She’d never been to Venice, and it was on her list. The heritage-filled Gritti Palace with its infamous history and luxurious accommodations added to the surprise, and I was able to navigate the expense with SPG points.
We landed in VCE after an overnight flight on Lufthansa first class from EWR via FRA and decided to take the slow vaporetto to buy some extra time before check-in. Watching the early morning, rush hour traffic on the canals was a welcome way to wake up slowly. Often a police boat sped past, sirens blaring, and snapped us out of our haze. The wake created caused the boat to bob, but otherwise it was a smooth ride. The vaporetto dropped us at the Santa Maria del Giglio ferry terminal just a short walk down a narrow passage to the unassuming side entrance of The Gritti Palace.
Walking into the lobby, it was clear we were someplace historic and special. The ceilings were rather low, and the room was lit by sconces made of Murano glass creating a gothic, candle-lit effect. Dark wood ceilings, velvet wallpaper trimmed with portraits painted in the darkest pallets made us feel as if we were in the old world. After leaving our bags at the bell desk, we sat outside at the hotel’s Gritti Terrace restaurant, next to the main entrance on the Grand Canal, and enjoyed cappuccinos and fresh Italian pastries. Across the canal we could see Peggy Guggenheim’s estate that now houses her famous art collection (a must-see while in Venice), as well as the grand Santa Maria Basilica with the large mid-morning sun rising alongside.
While watching fleets of gondolas, vaporettos and taxi acquei cruise by, the front desk advised us that our room was ready. We stopped off at a small office in the lobby to officially check in before being escorted to a Sestiere Suite.
Walking through the 15th century palazzo that was formerly a private home before it became the permanent residence of Andrea Gritti, the 77th Doge of Venice, we were struck by the lavish and ornate Venetian interiors, the rose-colored terrazzo floors and the framed photographs of all the hotel’s famous residents. It was fascinating to imagine the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor, Ian Fleming, Keith Richards, George and Amal, and many more of the world’s most notable people walking the same halls over the centuries.
Our suite, at the end of a long hall on the third floor, opened into a small foyer where we placed our luggage. The living room, decorated in opulent Venetian style, had a velour patterned wall paper, a plush very comfortable sofa and oriental rug. Nowhere is pattern on pattern on pattern more fitting than Venice. A flat screen TV sat on top an old writing desk that also housed the mini bar, as well as glassware and snacks. A welcome letter from the hotel manager and chilled bottle of prosecco had been placed on the coffee table and were appreciated and greatly enjoyed.
I was surprised that the bedroom was larger than the living room, about twice the size and had a spacious sitting area with a chaise lounge. The bedroom’s decor was a bit more relaxed and its two sets of windows opened out to the street where we had walked a few hours earlier. We could hear multiple church bells ringing off in the distance.
As if things couldn’t get any more luxe, we walked into a bathroom with floor to ceiling marble – the entire room was dripping in gorgeous, swirling grey Italian marble. Complete with standing shower, tub, his & hers sinks, bidet and toilet, as well as Aqua di Parma toiletries this bathroom did not disappoint. Across the hall was a long, spacious walk-in closet with soft terry robes and slippers, deep bureaus and a safe.
During our few days in Venice, the Venice Film Festival and the Venice Biennale were in full swing and we weren’t able to make reservations at many of the restaurants on our list, but we were pleased with every place, but will check the events listing before making a return trip.
The Gritti Palace proved to be the foundation of an exciting trip. Not only was the location perfect: walking distance to the Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square, as well as a short gondola ride to the museums and restaurants across the canal, but the hotel itself was so magnificent that we often wanted to remain on the terrace enjoying an Aperol Spritz watching the beauty and bustle of Venetian traffic on the Grand Canal.