The next in our series on iconic hotels around the world is The Cipriani in Venice, Italy.
The most celebrated lover of all time held trysts among the wisteria and white-rose laden gardens now named in his honour.
The Bellini, the cocktail of crushed white peach and Prosecco dedicated to Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, was invented here.
Meanwhile, a staple on almost every Italian menu today, carpaccio, was first served at this very hotel to accommodate the raw-food diet of a celebrated diner, countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo.
The artist Vittore Carpaccio’s exhibition was on at the time, and the colour of the dish reminded Giuseppe Cipriani of the reds and yellows of the great artist – naming the dish thus.
Deep Artistic Roots
Opened in 1958 by Giuseppe Cipriani, who also had Harry’s Bar (named after his son) on St Mark’s, it immediately attracted the glamorous. Maria Callas, Sophia Loren, and more recently George Clooney, were Cipriani Hotel regulars.
Venice’s art roots run deeper still. Today, the Venice Biennale is one of the world’s most famous art fairs, and this island of nobility and merchants is also celebrated for its Murano glass and Fortuny fabrics – both used in abundance in the hotel.
The Cipriani also has the largest swimming pool in Venice. The legend goes that Mr Cipriani gave instructions for its dimensions in feet while the builders interpreted it in meters.
Those in the know say it was an intentional ruse, and a strategic point of difference which still stands today.
When we visited, James Sherwood, the founder of Orient-Express Hotels now rebranded as Belmond who purchased the property, was dining at Cip’s Restaurant.
His wife, Dr Shirley Sherwood, a celebrated botanical artist and horticulturist, was instrumental in building the Casanova Gardens of The Cipriani into a destination in its own right.
As news of the hotel’s acclaim spread, more accommodation was required. One of the hotels exquisite suites, the Dogaressa (wife of the Doge of Venice), where we stayed, is in the adjacent Palazzo Vendramin, previously owned by Guinness family, who were early investors in the hotel project.
Museum Quality Pieces
The 18th-century Coromandel screens in the Dogaressa suite are, for example, museum-quality pieces probably originally owned by the aristocratic Guinness sisters.
Elegant furnishings aside, what makes this suite so staggering is the real estate it occupies. Four Gothic windows of the suite’s sitting room overlook the Giudecca Canal and St Mark’s basin, while the bedroom looks into the Casanova Garden.
With all of Venice’s hubbub, the Belmond Cipriani remains a serene resort from which one can escape the gawkers and day-trippers, and watch the palazzos and Doge’s Palace turn terracotta in the setting sun.
Venetians reclaim their city in the evening, which, after a Bellini and a platter of carpaccio, so should you.
Words by Brian Berkman