The Luxury Collection brand was launched by Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 1998, when it included the properties of Italian hotelier CIGA (Compagnia Italiana Grandi Alberghi), company which had been acquired by Sheraton in 1994. CIGA Hotels, a collection of heritage palace hotels, was founded in 1906 in Venice and it is in Venice that The Gritti Palace Hotel has recently seen its re-birth not only as one of the city’s finest luxury hotels but also as a global flagship of the Luxury Collection.
As the owner and operator of the Gritti Palace, Starwood Hotels & Resorts has made a powerful statement of its commitment to the highest standard of luxury hospitality, consolidating the foundation of the Luxury Collection brand. After 15 months of meticulous renovation and restoration works, The Gritti Palace re-opened at the end of February this year, successfully reviving its legendary spirit.
The Gritti Palace whose origins date back to the 15th century (Andrea Gritti was considered one of the most courageous warriors and illuminated governors of the Venetian Republic), has a unique location in Venice, right on the Grand Canal facing the impressive Chiesa Madonna della Salute (Our Lady of Deliverance Church) and walking distance or less than 5 minutes by boat to Piazza San Marco. The airport boat ride takes less than 20 minutes and the hotel provides a seamless arrival and departure service.
The Gritti Palace is rightfully considered an institution, being an integral part of Venice’s history and community. Every year, on November 21st, Venetians celebrate the “Festa della Madonna della Salute”. For the occasion, a temporary bridge supported by boats is set up across the Grand Canal, connecting the basilica with Santa Maria del Giglio, right next door to The Gritti Palace. City officials parade from San Marco to the Salute for a service in gratitude of the city’s deliverance from the plague. Thousands of people cross the votive bridge, light candles, and queue to visit the main altar of the imposing Salute Church to give thanks and say a prayer to the Virgin Mary to intercede for their health and that of their loved ones.
Across the Canal from the Gritti Palace sits the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of Europe’s premier museums devoted to modern art. Celebrating her patronage, The Gritti Palace has named one of hotel’s finest suites after her. Among the hotel’s patrons were Ernest Hemingway, and W. Somerset Maugham, while many celebrities have been regular guests at the hotel (Lauren Baccal, Sophia Loren etc).
Every inch of the hotel has been restored and renovate, with the utmost attention to detail. The walls have been redecorated with precious fabric upholsteries from local manufacturers; the hand painted boiserie and Venetian laquered painting have been carefully restored; ceiling stuccowork has been redone. Most of the antique mirrors and Murano chandeliers, as well as original furniture have been restored too.
Marble bathrooms have been entirely re-constructed, most of them now featuring separate shower and bathtub, while ample engineering works included a new heating and air-conditioning system as well as flawless soundproofing both outdoor and indoor, with solid Italian wooden doors. Today’s basic technological requirements of a luxury hotel have not been overlooked either – high speed wi-fi internet throughout the entire hotel, an integrated entertainment system with LED Tvs (Bang & Olufsen and Samsung), automatic control of curtains and air-conditioning.
The reopening of the Gritti Palace has also come with some impressive novelties such as the two-storey Redentore Terrazza Suite which sits on the uppermost floor of the palazzo with an internal circular staircase leading to an unequalled 250-square-metre panoramic rooftop terrace and plunge pool. The roof top terrace, whis is unique among luxury hotels in Venice, can be the setting for the most exquisit events – cocktails, private dinners etc. One of my favourite suites, the Fenice Suite, recreates the atmosphere of the famous Fenice Theatre, with subtle design elements, including a historic piano.
Another beautiful surprise at the Gritti Palace is the brand new SPA and 24 hour fitness. The Blue Mediterraneo by Acqua di Parma is the second of the iconic Italian brand (the first operating at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo), featuring bespoke skincare, created with the same rich source of essential oils and minerals that enable native flora to thrive against the wind, sun and salt. Each therapy is enhanced by a personalized selection of a signature Acqua di Parma fragrance and hot oil infusion which recreate emblematic Italian settings – Arancia di Capri, Mandorlo di Sicilia, Fico di Amalfi, Mirot di Panarea, Bergamotto di Calabria. I had a Blue Mediterraneo Signature massage which was very effective – invigorating and restorative at the same time (highly trained therapist and a truly luxurious setting).
The Gritti Epicurean School, the Bar Longhi and The Club del Doge Restaurant – both with their lavish Canal terraces, the very cosy lobby and the SPA, recreate The Gritti Palace as an urban resort, both for the active visitors and those who choose the hotel to relax and unwind.
But the fame and success of the Gritti Palace would not have lasted without its amazing staff, some of them having been with the hotel for decades. The General Manager of the Gritti Palace, Paolo Lorenzoni, an truly Italian hotelier with a CIGA background, has been instrumental to the revival of the hotel, not only overseeing the restoration and renovation works but ensuring the stability of the staff. And service is indeed, flawless!
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Oliver Petcu in Venice
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