One of the world’s first great luxury hotels, the Grand Hotel Britannia on the Grand Canal in Venice has undergone major renovations to reopen as The St. Regis Venice. The wonderful canal location, across from Santa Maria della Salute and minutes away from Piazza San Marco, couldn’t be better. And behind the hotel is Calle XXII Marzo, filled with high end boutiques, art galleries and access to Grand Teatro La Fenice, the city’s opera house.
The hotel opened in 1895, the inaugural year of the Venice Biennale and has hosted many famous artists including J.M.W. Turner, John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet. In the autumn of 1908, Monet painted San Giorgio Maggiore, Twilight from his room overlooking the Grand Canal. Other famous guests have included Sigmund Freud, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. More recently, The Talented Mr Ripley directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, was filmed here.
The St Regis continues its tradition as a culture-focused hotel with an eclectic collection of contemporary art by artists including Ai Weiwei, Tony Cragg, Erwin Wurm, Gregor Hildebrandt, Esther Stocker, Rosa Brueckel and Gregor Schmoll. In the lounge is a Venetian glass chandelier by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Made of clear glass from the workshops of Murano Island’s master craftsmen, at first glance the piece appears as a traditional Venetian chandelier but a closer look will reveal some of Ai Wei Wei’s trademark surprises. Outside on the upper garden is a sculpture that is a miracle of logistics, thanks to the determination of art curator Dr. Gisela Winkelhofer. Julian Opie’s four aluminium and steel sculptures, Running in Venice, were transported from the UK, brought up the Grand Canal on a tugboat and dropped by crane onto the St Regis terrace.
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The five “palazzi” that make up the hotel include Badoer Tiepolo, a palazzo, dating back to the 17th century. By the 19th century, palazzi Tiepolo, Barozzi and Regina were converted into the Gran Britannia Hotel. Sensitively renovated by London-based Interior Design Studio Sagrada, each of the 130 guestrooms and 39 suites of The St. Regis Venice has been furnished keeping the the artistic and cultural heritage of the building in mind, while also adding modern glamor. The top suite is the two-bedroom, art-inspired Presidential Suite, a contemporary artist’s residence overlooking the Grand Canal. Some guest rooms and suites have private terraces: there are 14 in total, unusual for a Venice hotel.
The exquisite Venetian styling throughout the hotel includes tailored fabrics and custom, handcrafted furnishings inspired by curves of gondolas, patterns of the Doge’s Palace, pavements of St. George’s churchyard and the Grand canal itself. An eclectic collection of artwork and sculptures inspired by the artistic heritage of the city will also be curated, bringing ancient Venice to today’s luxury travellers in a modern way.
Dining and drinking at the St Regis is a delight, both for the food and gorgeous setting. Gio’s restaurant at the St Regis offers simple iconic dishes using local, fresh ingredients. The Arts Bar spills out onto the outdoor terrace and serves art-inspired modern and classic cocktails with a disruptive twist. Breakfast, one of the best in Venice, is also served on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.
The St Regis is the best place to enjoy one of Venice’s most exciting festivals. Il Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer), is an under-the-radar Venetian festival that is an absolute must see. One weekend every July, the festival celebrates the end of a terrible plague 400 years ago. Although hardly known outside of Italy, it is famous for Venetians and thousands partake. The festival involves erecting a temporary, colorfully decorated bridge, that connects the Zattere with the Church of the Redentore on the Giudecca island. There’s also the sailing regatta in the Giudecca canal on Sunday. But the main attraction is on Saturday night where over 45 minutes of incredible fireworks are set off in the San Marco Basin. From the terraces at the St Regis, guests can watch the light show and view thousands of illuminated small boats also watching from the grand canal. It’s a truly magical, unique event.
The St. Regis Venice, San Marco 2159, Venice, Italy, 30124 Tel: +39 041-2400001