BELMOND HOTEL CIPRIANI
From the day it opened in 1956, the Hotel Cipriani has been a favourite of the Hollywood jet set, and during the annual Venice Film Festival it’s still a magnet for the beautiful people. It was the brainchild of Guiseppe Cipriani, the founder of Venice’s famous Harry’s Bar. His idea was to build an exclusive hotel within easy reach of St Mark’s Square but one that was also far enough away to be quiet and private.
If your travel research includes a Google Maps search, your initial thought might be that the Cipriani’s location is a drawback, since it appears to be nowhere near the throbbing centre of Venice, but don’t be fooled – its location is a plus.
The setting on Giudecca island to the south of Venice has made it a haven for the rich and famous and the just plain rich. The location makes it more like a resort (complete with clay tennis court, Olympicsized swimming pool, wellness centre and multiple restaurants) than a hotel. From the breakfast terrace at the Oro Restaurant the view is facing south towards the Lido and over to the 16th-century Benedictine church San Giorgio Maggiore on the left. It’s easy to forget the bustling city of Venice is right behind you. The Cipriani is just 10 minutes by boat from St Mark’s Square and a free shuttle service runs from a private dock there to the hotel 24 hours a day.
The Cipriani is really two hotels in one, the original resort building plus a 15th-century palazzo that was acquired in 1977 and transformed into a 16-room annex. The Palazzo Vendramin is linked to the main hotel via an extensive manicured garden that includes a water-lily pond, flower beds bursting with colour in spring, a herb garden, a restored vineyard, rose gardens and vast lawns.
Rooms and suites in the Palazzo Vendramin face the lagoon, which means many of them have spectacular views back to Venice, St Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace. The 125sqm Dogaressa Suite has one of the most spectacular views in all of Italy.
Many of the 95 rooms in the main Cipriani building also have views of the lagoon and San Giorgio Maggiore; others face on to the gardens. Many also have balconies or terraces. The Palladio Suite comes with its own private dock for guests to come and go in complete privacy, a heated plunge pool and 180-degree views of the Venetian lagoon.
In 1976 one of the hotel’s regular guests, James B. Sherwood, an American-born British-based shipping magnate, heard that the hotel was losing money and might be for sale (Giuseppe Cipriani had retired from his role as president in 1972) and he bought it on a whim for £900,000. A year later he bought two neglected train carriages, remnants of the fabled Orient-Express, from Sotheby’s and set about acquiring 25 more of them. In 1982 after restoring the train he relaunched it as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and brought his hotel portfolio, which included the Villa San Michele in Florence and the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, under the same umbrella. In 2014 the group was renamed Belmond.