advertisement

When you think of a 1960s movie starlet arriving at her hotel in a long scarf and big sunglasses, trailed by suited paparazzi, you're thinking of L'Hotel and Il Palazzo—a magnificent luxury hotel complex at the mouth of the Grand Canal near Piazza San Marco that seems to typify old-school midcentury Italian glamour. An amalgam of a rehabbed waterfront palazzo and a larger 1940s hotel (the Bauer L'Hotel) built by a shipbuilder to subtly evoke the swagger of a Deco ocean liner, together (they share services) they brim with bespoke furnishings, fine china, and other touches that are carefully considered by its somewhat eccentric but intensely attentive owner, female CEO and Venice society name Bortolotto Possati, who goes as far as to include a card in your bathroom with a rhapsodizing essay about her choice for your soaps, which themselves are presented in a bowl of hand-blown Venetian glass. No detail is beneath the zeal of the management, whose family has been in charge since the 1930s.

It's even possible to take a gondola to a dedicated water entrance, added in the middle 20th century when a street and bridge was removed by the hotel's powerful owner. Don't be mistaken—this is a power hotel at power prices, but it's also a fine family-run establishment fit for the movies. Many rooms have views across the canals, the buffet breakfasts are lush and stocked with the finest food (and chilled champagne), the staff straight-backed and professional. Rooms (ones in Il Palazzo are closer to the Grand Canal and consequently the most expensive) are similarly wealthy-feeling and transportingly backward-looking, with heavy draperies, rich dark bathroom marble, and conservative Old World furniture—as a heritage building, there are far too few outlets, though it's easy to overlook this generation gap when you can crack your window and hear the gondoliers singing below every evening. This is the hotel you recommend to friends looking for the dream Venice honeymoon or holiday—it's quite a financial splash, but it has a large number of devoted return guests and the picture it presents will stay with you for the rest of your life.