Wa­ter ar­rival

Pri­vate wa­ter taxi is the glam­orous way to ar­rive at Venice ho­tel that was for­merly a doge’s palace

The Hamilton Spectator - - TRAVEL - STEVE MACNAULL

Chan­nelling our in­ner Ge­orge and Amal Clooney, my wife and I glide over Venice’s la­goon on a sleek pri­vate wa­ter taxi.

As we pass the mouth of the Grand Canal, the domes of the re­splen­dent Basil­ica in the pi­geon-filled, cafe-lined San Marco Pi­azza come into view.

The crowd is thick mid-morn­ing on the Riva Degli Schi­avoni, the float­ing city’s main wa­ter­front prom­e­nade.

How­ever, we avoid the throng by slip­ping into the Rio del Vin and un­der the stone Ponte del Vin with its or­nate balustrade.

It’s so ro­man­tic this canal and bridge carry the vin name af­ter the boats trans­port­ing wine that used to an­chor here.

My wife and I aren’t de­liv­er­ing wine, but we are mak­ing an en­trance at one of Venice’s most fa­mous and lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels — The Danieli.

The for­mer palace of the 14th-cen­tury doge An­drea Dan­dolo fronts the Riva Degli Schi­avoni and has a dock at its side door to re­ceive guests ar­riv­ing by boat.

My wife and I can’t help but feel glam­orous mak­ing such an ar­rival.

As the wa­ter taxi is tied up by our driver Matthew, a Danieli door­man dressed in tails greets us, gives us a hand onto the jetty and re­trieves our lug­gage.

Nat­u­rally, our thoughts wan­der to Os­car­win­ning ac­tor Ge­orge and high-pro­file hu­man rights lawyer Amal, who fa­mously wed in Venice in 2014.

The power cou­ple, and all their guests, ar­rived at the canal-front ho­tel where they ex­changed vows in gleam­ing wooden pri­vate wa­ter taxis.

My wife and I floated into Venice af­ter a 10day Em­pires of the Mediter­ranean cruise aboard the Vik­ing Sky, vis­it­ing Greek isles, Croa­t­ian ports and Slove­nia.

Of course, we could have taken the cheaper pub­lic trans­porta­tion wa­ter bus from where the ship docked at the cruise ter­mi­nal to the wa­ter bus sta­tion on the Riva Degli Schi­avoni. But what fun would that have been? We’d have missed out on our Ge­orge-andA­mal mo­ment and for­gone the ex­trav­a­gance of a wa­ter taxi land­ing.

So, in keep­ing with the in­dul­gence that started on the cruise, we hired our own wa­ter taxi.

The in­te­rior of the 210-room Danieli is ev­ery­thing you’d imag­ine the for­mer palace of the leader of the most serene Repub­lic of Venice to be.

The lobby is the four-storey mar­bled and pil­lared en­closed court­yard of the palace.

The light­ing is de­lib­er­ately glow­ing like 14th Cen­tury can­dle­light.

We meet Danieli mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive Francesco Ripa who ush­ers us around the orig­i­nal palace core of the ho­tel as well as the 19th and 20th Cen­tury palazzo ad­di­tions con­nected by sec­ond-floor bridges.

There’s chat of the ho­tel be­ing fea­tured in the movies Moon­raker, the 1979 James Bond flick star­ring Roger Moore, and 2010s The Tourist with An­gelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

The for­mer palace is also the set­ting of many a sparked romances and trysts, in­clud­ing the scan­dalous 1950s pair­ing of Greek ship­ping mag­nate Aris­to­tel Onas­sis and opera singer Maria Cal­las, who would be later dropped in favour of Jackie Kennedy.

The rooftop Ter­razzo restau­rant has the best view in the city over the la­goon, prom­e­nade, Grand Canal and Basil­ica.

Al­though we won’t sleep there, my wife and I are given a peek in­side the 12,000-eu­roa-night Doge Dan­dolo Royal Suite, which was the orig­i­nal pri­vate apart­ment of the 14th Cen­tury doge.

As ex­pected, it’s aris­to­cratic Ital­ian Gothic at its best from the over-the-top decor by French de­signer Pierre Yves Ro­chon to the fresco ceil­ing above the bed in the master’s chambers by Vene­tian painter Ja­copo Guarana.

We are then shown to our quar­ters, a lux­ury la­goon-view room with bal­cony.

While the doge never slept there, it is sump­tu­ous with its high ceil­ings, crown mould­ings, up­hol­stered walls, mar­ble bath­room, king-size bed and French doors to two wrought-iron bal­conies over­look­ing the Riva Degli Schi­avoni and la­goon.

It’s a scene that screams drink-pros­ec­coand-soak-in-all-that-is-won­der­ful-aboutVenice. Which is ex­actly what we do be­fore dress­ing up, wan­der­ing Venice’s tan­gle of pedes­trian al­leys and canals and stop­ping for more Pros­ecco and pasta.

Then its back to the Danieli for slum­ber be­fit­ting a doge and his dog­a­ressa.

The Ho­tel Danieli is part of Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional’s Lux­ury Col­lec­tion.

Check out DanieliHotelVenice.com.

The writer was a guest of Ho­tel Danieli, which nei­ther read nor ap­proved this story be­fore pub­li­ca­tion.

FRANCESCO RIPA PHOTO

Steve MacNaull and his wife Kerry on the bal­cony of their room over­look­ing the prom­e­nade and la­goon.

STEVE MACNAULL PHOTO

Matthew was our pri­vate wa­ter taxi driver.

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