I arrived at Palazzo Papadopoli by boat and entered as privileged guests have over the centuries, by the formal “porta d’acqua”. Stepping into the vast reception area with its soaring ceiling and original frescos, there was no desk or anything to distinguish it from a private palazzo. The first Aman in a European city, the hotel opened in June and is still the home of Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga and his family, who live on the top floor and rent out the rest of the property to Aman Resorts. The hotel features two private gardens and a wooden altana, or traditional rooftop terrace, for spectacular sunset views over La Serenissima.
San Polo is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. It’s only a short walk from the hotel’s back gate to the historic Rialto Bridge and its early morning market, frequented by chefs and locals. The Venice Art Biennial runs until November 24 and there are two key exhibitions nearby: a Rudolf Stingel exhibition at Palazzo Grassi partly owned by Franois Pinault, and When Attitude Becomes Form at Ca’ Corner owned by Fondazione Prada. The San Toma vaporetto (water bus) stop is next to the hotel with a direct line to St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, and you can also reach the hotel by gondola or water taxi.
The 24 rooms come with unique architectural features, but all share a common aesthetic: colours are muted, the furniture sleek and contemporary and the bathrooms spacious with large tubs as well as powerful rain showers. The palazzo bedrooms are slightly smaller than the palazzo chambers and palazzo stanza rooms, which have views over the Grand Canal. The five signature suites include the Papadopoli Stanza, with views over the water and garden terrace and Tiepolo ceiling frescos in the bedroom and bathroom, and perhaps the most stunning, the Alcova Tiepolo Suite, with its Chinoiserie sitting room.
It will undoubtedly attract the Aman’s loyal following: A-listers and those who are looking for an intimate Venetian palazzo experience.
You get your own guest assistant, but the young, mainly Venetian staff are still learning and they’re friendly and eager, rather than slick. The experienced concierge is excellent, however.
The opulent red and yellow dining rooms, named after the coloured Rubelli silks that adorn their walls, serve Italian and Thai menus, so you can mix and match. Perhaps Paad Kratpow Nuea, wok-fried tenderloin of beef in chilli, garlic and basil sauce with baby zucchini in oyster sauce, for €22 (Dh108) or tenderloin of grain fed black Angus beef with summer truffle and thyme flavoured potato for €45 (Dh221). An al fresco Japanese restaurant has also opened in the Grand Canal-facing garden. Breakfast isn’t included and, at €28 (Dh137) for a rather basic Continental, expensive for what it is.
The creative programme of excursions led by historians, chefs and art experts, including after-hours access to major museums.
Having to ask three times for advice on what time I needed to leave for the airport.
It’s certainly not cheap, but the palazzo is stunning and you’ll feel more like you’re a guest in a private home than a hotel.
The bottom line
A double room costs from €1,105 (Dh5,366) room only, including taxes. Aman Canal Grande Venice, Palazzo Papadopoli, Calle Tiepolo 1364, Sestiere San Polo, Venice, Italy (amanresorts.com; 00 39 041 270 7333).
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