Saturday, December 24, 2011

Palazzina Grassi Venice

Palazzina Grassi
Palazzina Grassi is a little jewel of a hotel that brings a long overdue contemporary edge to the Venice hotel scene. It opened just before Christmas and is the first hotel in Italy by the renowned designer Phillipe Starck. In just a few months it has already found favour with Hollywood A-Listers seeking a more discreet five star experience in Venice. Johnny Depp took up residence for months whilst filming in the city and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are said to be fans.
The 26 roomed hotel is tucked away behind Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi Museum for contemporary art and near the enchanting Campo San Samuele and some of the finest artisanal shops in the city including our favourite linen shop and the divine Santa Maria Novella pharmacy. The street entrance is located off a tiny calle and marked only by a bulls head, and with no reception the general atmosphere is that of a private home.
Guests who alight from the Grand Canal water entrance expecting a classical interior to match the 16th century palazzo façade are in for a shock – the classic Starck hand is evident everywhere– floor to ceiling Venetian mirrors and a long mirrored glass bar reflect the light from the countless quirky chandeliers in the colonnaded bar and restaurant. Exposed brickwork contrasts with the brightly painted corridors and shockingly colourful rugs. The artist Aristide Najean has designed custom made glass works from Murano, vintage and rare books line the book cases and the overall impression is sophisticated and highly original.
Of all the rooms and apartment suites, our favourite are the suites in the original 16th century part of the building that overlook the Grand Canal. The bedrooms are achingly contemporary, everything from the furniture to the walls and floors is white, while vast oversized mirrors and furniture with tiny masked symbols display typical playful touches from Starck. The centralised beds are surrounded by transparent wardrobes, and the huge mirrors conceal plasma screens. Room service offers a list of vices advising guests to eat well, drink, read and surrender to their passions and breakfast can be served at any time or in any part of the hotel.
The bar and restaurant are guaranteed to become a hotspot during the film festival and the Biennale – with its seductive low lighting, mahogany panelled walls and plush armchairs it is already a great place to come for cocktails and live music. The restaurant has a show kitchen and offers a contemporary unpretentious twist on classic Venetian dishes. The owner, an ex racing driver from Milan, has opened the G Club, a private members bar and dining room on the Grand Canal side of the hotel. The atmosphere is cosy and intimate and has already become a meeting spot for Venetian society.
The perks of staying at Palazzina Grassi start even before guests arrive at the hotel: a vintage 1962 Celli speedboat can be arranged to collect guests from the airport, check-in taking place en route to the city. On arrival with no formal check-in and a glass of prosecco in hand, guests get the impression of arriving in a private home rather than a five star hotel. Palazzina Grassi is a refreshing and frivolous contrast to the grande dames of the Venice hotel scene. As the owner himself says, “There was a need in Venice for something new to go against the traditional way of thinking about Venice - Starck was the answer. Palazzina Grassi is more like a private club, a combination of a hotel and a very unique space where guests can live as a Venetian."