50 Shades of Venice

SLOW Magazine - - Editor's Choice - Text: Mar­cus Brew­ster Im­ages © Ca Maria Adele

It has been said that Venice is the place we have all been to, even if only in our imag­i­na­tions. Its lap­ping canals and lean­ing palaz­zos are mag­i­cal in any sea­son, its flag­stoned pi­az­zas and stepped foot­bridges an in­vi­ta­tion to wan­der mind­lessly and in­evitably get lost as if in a dream. Venice has an­other his­tor­i­cal name – La Serenis­sima, or the Serene Repub­lic, which refers to an un­bro­ken 1,100-year span of in­de­pen­dence. In the 9th cen­tury, while many Eu­ro­pean ci­ties were hid­den be­hind de­fen­sive walls, Venice was open to the world, pro­tected only by its lagoon. A mes­meris­ing blend of East and West, La Serenis­sima was nei­ther wholly Eu­ro­pean nor com­pletely Ital­ian.

De­spite the on­slaught of moder­nity, Venice’s res­o­lutely his­toric façades make it still pos­si­ble to feel like a char­ac­ter in a Henry James novel, and to wan­der wideeyed at the artis­tic trea­sures ac­cu­mu­lated over 1,000 years of mer­can­tile dom­i­nance. All said, it’s thus ap­pro­pri­ate that I went to Venice with “the heiress”.

I call my friend “the heiress” be­cause she re­minds me of Olivia de Hav­il­land in her sec­ond Os­car-win­ning turn in the film of that name. She has Olivia’s calm el­e­gance that comes from mon­eyed breed­ing, as well as the poise of hav­ing stud­ied art in Paris and hav­ing trav­elled the world as a home­ware buyer for over a decade sourc­ing de­sir­able dé­cor items of re­fine­ment and pol­ish. In Venice, while at­tend­ing the Bi­en­nale, we were stay­ing at the “world’s most in­spired de­sign ho­tel, ac­cord­ing to the Bou­tique Ho­tels Awards 2017, and I was mind­ful of hav­ing the ben­e­fit of a pro­fes­sional’s eye.

Ca Maria Adele is a 12-roomed mini­palazzo – or palazzetto – on a side canal off the Grand Canal. The ho­tel is lo­cated in the art-lov­ing Dor­so­duro dis­trict, di­rectly op­po­site the Salute Church (or to give it its full name the Basil­ica di Santa Maria della Salute). That’s the great, gleam­ing, egg-white dome that pre­sides over the en­trance to the Grand Canal and that you im­me­di­ately recog­nise from all the post­card views of La Serenis­sima. The Salute is a use­ful landmark be­cause the Ca Maria Adele is so dis­creet, so lower-case in its ex­te­rior pre­sen­ta­tion that you could walk past it un­know­ingly. We hap­pened upon it be­cause we went in­side to ask for di­rec­tions be­fore be­ing warmly in­formed that we’d reached our desti­na­tion!

As re­strained as its ex­te­rior may be, so ex­u­ber­ant are its in­te­ri­ors. Not in a neon pal­ette way, for the Ca Maria Adele is way too so­phis­ti­cated for cheap colour tricks, but for the in­ten­sity, the warmth, the lay­er­ing and the rich­ness of its rooms.

We stayed in the Room of the Moors which, like all the rooms, comes with its own sto­ry­board con­cept (cues: sapphire blue, iris) and mood board (volup­tuous sur­ren­der). Two black­amoor stat­ues grace the in­te­rior, which is fab­ric-cov­ered from floor to ceil­ing in gold and azure thread count. The plush op­u­lence and in­tri­cate Byzan­tine de­tail­ing re­minded me of the city’s long trad­ing his­tory with the Le­vant.

Other the­atri­cal con­cept op­tions in­clude the Noir Room, the Ori­en­tal Room, and the Fire­place Room, not to men­tion the Mini Palace which, for those seek­ing ab­so­lute dis­cre­tion, is couched some 50 me­tres away in a sep­a­rate three-storey apart­ment. It has a lounge on the ground floor, bed­room and bath­room on the first floor, and a 10 m² ter­race on the top floor with views of the Salute Basil­ica and Gi­udecca Is­land up to San Gior­gio is­land.

The ho­tel is owned and man­aged by two broth­ers whose an­tecedents are one of the great glass-blow­ing dy­nas­ties of Mu­rano. In fact, in the break­fast room there is an enor­mous blown-up 1950’s photo, from the fam­ily’s ar­chives, of the world’s largest chan­de­lier in­stalled at a casino in Bel­gium. Stand­ing be­fore this light fix­ture are half a dozen swan-like so­ci­ety beau­ties in full satin splen­dour, all chan­nelling so­cialite and style icon Marella Agnelli.

A good ho­tel be­comes a great ho­tel de­pend­ing on its break­fasts, and Ca Maria Adele does not fall at this morn­ing-af­ter hur­dle. Over 70 prod­ucts are avail­able on the à la carte menu, with se­lec­tions wheeled into the room by a maid in peach-coloured cap and apron with lace de­tail­ing.

Ev­ery morn­ing, with the rain beat­ing against the Moor­ish Room’s win­dows, I’d leave the heiress asleep and slip down to the break­fast room to start the day with a vel­vety caffè latte while look­ing out at the Salute. She’d be dream­ing, I was liv­ing the dream.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Ca Maria Adele, email [email protected]­mari­aadele.it or visit www.ca­mari­aadele.it.

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