I have traveled to Venice for many years as a cockeyed tourist, optimistic in discovering the best, but ultimately ending up at a tourist trap café near the famed Piazza San Marco. I have indulged in overpriced Gondola rides, where instead of romantic Aria’s; the Gondoliers were more often on their cell phones. I have slept in chain hotels that promised Canal views but provided a brick wall view. I have braved the unbearable crowds during the high seasons and the impossibly long lines.
For some reason, I could never let go of this water worn, magical city built of marble palaces practically floating on lagoons. The people who inhabit this city have such pride and reverence for the area that I was eager to discover the hidden luxury side of Venice that would have me fall in love all over again.
Upon arriving at the well-appointed Marco Polo Airport, I was met by my private driver who transferred me to the docks for my private boat ride to the Aman Canal Grande Hotel. The hotel provides guests with private transfers from the airport to make the checking in process seamless. The short trip from the airport took me through magnificent Palazzos that were almost 700 years old. The Aman Canal Grande is located near the famed Rialto Bridge in one of the oldest palazzos.
The hotel is in the former Palazzo Papadopoli, which was built in the 16th century by the architect Gian Giacomo dé Grigi. Guests usually arrive at the property by boat, docking at a landing that leads directly into the lofty Reception Hall. From the Reception Hall, a sweeping staircase rises through two levels to the piano nobile, traditionally the grandest floor of a palazzo. At the top of the stairs, guests are welcomed into the Vestibule.
The piano nobile was designed by Michelangelo Guggenheim, a leading exponent of the Neo- Renaissance and Rococo styles in the mid-to-late 1800s. It offers a lounging area in the Ballroom, and leads to the Bar and dining rooms. Rising from the Vestibule is a second staircase that leads to the fourth level. This houses the Salon, a lounge and relaxation area, as well as Stanza del Tiepolo, the Library and Stanza del Guarana meeting room. There is also an intimate spa and rooftop terrace with views of Venice and the distant Alps.
Fronting the Grand Canal is the Canal Garden, one of very few private gardens on the canal where guests can enjoy an al fresco meal in Naoki. This Japanese restaurant serves innovative French-inspired kaiseki cuisine. Aman Canal Grande Venice offers 24 suites, some featuring protected frescos and views of the canal. George Clooney spent his wedding night in the magnificent Alcova Tiepolo Suite following his wedding party at the hotel. The suite, located through a hidden doorway blending into the frescoed walls, offers a Chinese painted sitting room and a bedroom ceiling by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Tiepolo has been described as the “greatest decorative painter of 18th-century Europe”.
Located above the front door of the palazzo, the Canal Grande Suite directly fronts the Grand Canal offering exceptional views. It features a sitting room with an intricate arched window. The Sansovino Suite includes a painted frieze around the walls and a carved ceiling. It also has the most historic fireplace in the palazzo, designed by Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino, one of Venice’s most famous architects in the 16th century. The Maddalena Suite features silk wallpaper, high frescoed ceilings and a chandelier in the bathroom. The tall windows offer dramatic views over the Canal Garden and the Grand Canal.
I loved staying at this magnificent hotel and they made me feel like I was visiting family and staying in a private Palazzo. There were numerous special touches including the amazing bathroom products made by female inmates at Giudecca Prison.
There is nothing quite like getting an insider’s look into the hidden places to visit at such a tourist heavy spot as Venice. I spoke with local Claudia Schwarze, the General Manager of the Aman Canal Grande and her advice for the perfect experience in Venice includes; visiting San Polo and getting lost in it so many beautiful campos to really experience ordinary Venetian life. Each campo is a hub, where a church, bank, bar, shops and long shopping streets supply all the necessities of life in Venice. The Aman Canal Grande provided a private boat for my lunch.