travel

Live like a Venetian in a plush palace designed to be anything but conventional, says William Cook.

Description: The Krug Lounge at Palazzina G

The Krug Lounge at Palazzina G

With 20 million visitors every year and an abundance of historic buildings, Venice has never been short of hotels in all guises. Now former rally driver Emanuele Garosci has added a cutting-edge, contemporary property in a classic setting to the mix, somewhere style-savvy travelers will feel at home. His creation, Palazzina G, is less than three years old, but already it has that elusive ambience – part-refuge, part-rendezvous – shared by all the best romantic hotels.

Garosci comes from Turin but this heart is in Venice. Over drinks and fusion finger food in PG’s, Palazzina G’s cosy bar/ restaurant, he described his vision: to make his guests feel like Venetians for the duration of their stay. A midnight boat tour around San Marco? No problem. A Tintoretto private view? Can do, Dark, dynamic and charismatic, with a wild beard and long hair, he looks more like a Renaissance painter than a hotelier, which is fitting, for he talks about his hotel like a work of art rather than a slice of real estate.

Description: Riccardo Garosci

Riccardo Garosci

Garosci’s masterstroke was persuading the French designer Philippe Strarck to renovate this 16th-century landmark. For his first Italian hotel, Strarck blended traditional architecture with modern décor. It’s a quirky combination, but it works. And, unlike some other Starck hotels, Palazzina G isn’t also welcoming: with no front-desk or lobby, you feel like a house guest not a number.

Description: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/52/2a/5f/exterior-view.jpg

Palazzina G at night

Description: The JD Suite at the hotel

The JD Suite at the hotel

The menu is similarly eclectic: Italian with an oriental twist, as befits a city which has always looked east as well as west. Resident chef Luigi Frascella makes exquisite cicchetti and excellent sushi. But although his influences are international, his ingredients are entirely local. Frascella buys his product at the outdoor market by the Rialto Bridge. Guests are welcome to join him on a shopping trip: it’s only a short walk away. Breakfast is bespoke and open-ended; a waiter will take your order at any time of day. PG’s is plush and intimate, all marble and mahogany, comfy sofas and cashmere throws. The compact bedrooms are light, airy and serene. Decorated in cool creams and muted greys, the finite sense of space is heightened by lots of tinted, backlit Murano mirrors. As well as 16 bedrooms, there are six apartment in a separate wing, which backs onto the Grand Canal, and the hotel has Italy’s first Krug Lounge, Johnny Depp stayed at Palazzina G for three months while he was filming The Tourist. Other names to drop include Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Al Pacino, Quentin Tarantino, Robert De Niro, George Clooney and Madona.

The hotel is hidden away in a back alley behind the Palazzo Grassi art gallery. Built by one of Venice’s richest families, the Grassis, the palazzo was the grand residence of the dynasty during the 18th and 19th centuries. The smaller palazzina next door, which now houses the hotel and apartments, used to be a spa where the family went for mud baths. Ironically, a spa is the one thing that is missing from Palazzina G (some of the bathrooms are also a bit perfunctory – my Junior Suite only had a shower), but this isn’t the place to stay if mod cons are your top priority. It’s most like joining a private members’ club than checking into a conventional hotel, and by the end of my brief visit I really did feel like a Venetian, if only for a few days.

Description: The Grand Canal Suite at Palazzina G

The Grand Canal Suite at Palazzina G

Palazzina G, sestriere san marco, venice (00 39 41 528 4644; www.palazzinag.com). Double from $480; suite apartments (sleep two) from $6000

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