Few hotels are more renowned in Venice than the Gritti Palace. Built as the former home of Vatican ambassadors to the city state, this Starwood Luxury Collection property offers a stunning view of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute from its balconies and patio. It’s also expensive. But I was looking for a step up from my first trip in 2007. The Gritti delivered.
Some people knock Venice. It’s one of those places everyone has to see, but many of those same people only go for a day trip during the height of summer and complain about crowds and bad odors. I love the city even though my first stay was in a small hotel opposite the train station, shared with three other guys.
The narrow alleys of Venice are full of surprises if you’re willing to depart from the main tourist areas. One of my favorite activities is waking at dawn and walking the streets as the locals arrive for work. But I’ll be sharing more about Venice in a separate post. Today is just about the hotel. We booked a Venetian Room (a one-level upgrade) using 85,922 Ultimate Rewards points ($1,288.84 in value) as I detailed in my trip overview. As a category 7 hotel, expect to redeem 30,000 SPG points per night.
Our stay at the hotel was simply spectacular. The service is great. The rooms and public spaces look brand new. The food is amazing; I’ll probably have to try a class at the Gritti Epicurean School. The location is just far enough away from the crush of tourists without feeling remote.
While the lobby is small, the first thing you see upon entering is the concierge desk to the right. They’ll hold your key for you when you leave, but because the concierge always remembered our faces it was hardly an inconvenience.
To the left of the entrance are two reception desks. You almost don’t notice them because of the half wall separating the area from the rest of the lobby, making the hotel feel much more like a home. Past the concierge and reception is a larger receiving area, with sofas and lounge chairs to the left and a private dock to the right. There are also a couple of small elevators to reach the upper floors. Or, you can use the grand staircase in the back, past the restaurant.
After confirming our rate and walking through some seasonal discounts, the receptionist escorted us up to our room and explained some of the historical furnishings. A box of chocolates and a bottle of red wine were waiting for us, and a couple jars of bar snacks were replenished daily along with bottled water. I (almost) didn’t need to go down to the bar for a real cocktail. With no real status except for the SPG Gold that comes with my Amex Platinum Card, they did a good job of making us feel special.
The Venetian Room
I’ve seen a few reviews of the Gritti Palace on other points-and-miles travel blogs. However, most of those were for one night only and in a standard Deluxe Room. I hope that our longer stay in an upgraded Venetian room will provide greater context. We were worried that the basic Deluxe Room would feel too cramped. I felt encouraged to book the Venetian Room for just a little extra to get more space, a courtyard view, and a separate tub and shower.
It shouldn’t surprise you that reality can differ from the website when you book an historic property. Our Venetian room still had a combined tub and shower and only one sink. (Even much more expensive rooms, like the Grand Canal Rooms, have similar bathroom setups. It has more to do with the space available in that specific room.)
I think what you’re really paying for with a Venetian room is the courtyard. Each morning and evening we could sit in our room and listen to the church bells ring. Our room on the top floor just peeked above the roof with a slight view of the city. We could also see the roof terrace, which has a pool and is exclusive to the hotel’s Terrazza Redendore suite, starting at €9,100 per night. Frankly, we were very satisfied with the Venetian Room; I would rather spend my money downstairs in the restaurant.
Despite the less impressive bathroom, I did like the flowers and Murano glassware, which added a bit of style and, again, made me feel more at home than at a hotel. The Gritti Palace is also famous for using Acqua di Parma bath amenities. My wife, Megan, liked them quite a bit, but it takes a lot to make me get excited over soap. They were good, just not good enough for me to make space in my carryon for the leftovers.
My only real complaint about the room is that space is at a premium, and I don’t think the hotel should be filling it up with unnecessary amenities. The television took up half the desk, and there were additional catalogs, magazines, and snacks that seemed to make the entire surface unusable. Our room did have enough space for a separate sitting chair and a bench at the end of of the bed. However, I’d definitely send a note to the concierge when I return and ask that they remove the TV prior to arrival.
The Gritti has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Club del Doge, and a seasonal outdoor restaurant, the Gritti Terrace. The outdoor spaces were closed during our visit, but we were offered 15% off dinner at Club del Doge or 20% off lunch. There’s also a nice bar inside where the terrace is located.
We did not take advantage of the discount at Club del Doge — something I now regret — but breakfast was still spectacular. It had prices to match. Our rate did not include breakfast, and I do not have SPG Platinum status any longer, so normal prices of about €55 per person for the full buffet or about €32 for the continental buffet were in effect. You can also order a la carte.
Fortunately they never charged us full price. We got away with a single €32 charge our first day because the waiter looked at our plates and told us we ate too little. On our last day we had a single €55 charge after I ordered some eggs. (We went to a local spot on our second morning.) While I still think that our breakfast at the Park Hyatt Milan was better, this was a very close second. The selection and service were also superior. I can only imagine what it’s like to dine out on the terrace during summer.
In an effort to compare options, we took the #1 vaporetto (water bus) from the Santa Lucia train station to the Giglio stop. Someone used their influence to keep the vaporetto away, so the gondoliers get to take advantage of the wide open space next to the hotel’s front door while the vaporetto drops you off at a very narrow alley to the left of the Santa Maria del Giglio square.
I do not recommend taking the vaporetto to the hotel. Although just €7.50 per person, it is crowded and takes forever. You could improve on that by taking the 4.1 or 4.2 express bus to Piazza San Marco and walking 10 minutes. However, I vote for a water taxi. For the ransom price of €75, you’ll get a fast journey and arrive in style at the hotel’s private dock. The cost is manageable if you have a group. Frankly, if you can afford the Gritti Palace then you can afford a taxi. We did enjoy using the vaporetto to get between attractions throughout our stay, but we used a water taxi to return to the train station after checking out.
The Gritti Palace is one of the more expensive hotels I’ve stayed at, and I’m glad I was able to use some points to defray the cost. Still, it convinced me that Venice is a city I love and a place I want to visit again and again. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather stay when we return for the Biennale, a biannual exposition on art and architecture. This time, however, I’ll plan to spend more time at the hotel’s restaurants (including its cooking school) and hopefully enjoy the outdoor spaces during warmer weather.