Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy
Like the bellini said to have been invented by its founder, the Cipriani is a slice of la dolce vita blended with a touch of timeless elegance
24 March, 2023
Before you even set eyes on the Cipriani, you'll know you're going to get along famously. The VIP treatment begins from the moment you step off the plane, when you're intercepted by a black-suited Venetian, whisked past the queue for passport control and onto the hotel's sleek private launch. Gliding across the lagoon towards that incomparable skyline of domes and campaniles, it's easy to imagine Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor reclining on the same cream leather. They're just a couple of the stars (not to mention royals and presidents) who have signed the hotel's guest book since it opened in 1958.
Zipping past the tourist-heavy centro storico, the boat will take you onto Giudecca, the island that lies south across the water from San Marco Square. The hotel's slightly set-apart location might sound like a drawback, yet travelling to and fro isn't only seamless, thanks to the all-hours water shuttle service zipping you over to the Doge's Palace in five minutes, but adds magic to the stay. There's something headily, surreally glamorous about sauntering up to the private jetty and summoning your speedboat on the old-fashioned telephone, especially as the city's bells strike midnight and streetlamps glow through the sea mist.
The hotel's lush exteriors, left, and a calm breakfast patio.
The setting also enables the Cipriani to offer something that's generally in short supply in Venice: space. Within its sprawling walled gardens, you'll find vines, herbs and vegetables growing, as well as tennis courts and the only swimming pool in central Venice (an Olympic-sized one, to boot). Founder Giuseppe Cipriani - whose other claim to fame is inventing that quintessential Venetian tipple, the bellini - wanted to give Europe's post-war jet-set an urban retreat that was close to the action while secluded and tranquil. Fittingly, the exterior is painted the same peach hue of his signature drink.
The Cipriani doesn't follow trends; it's confidently classic, from the breakfast table laid with white linen tablecloths and heavy silver coffee pots through to the lobby's polished marble floors and Murano glass chandeliers. Thoughtful flourishes, like the little gifts that await in your suite each evening (a Murano glass bauble, a tin of biscotti and marsala wine), ensure you feel a million dollars throughout your stay. La dolce vita is alive and well in this corner of the lagoon.
A peek into the arching green gardens, left, and an open window lighting a luxurious suite.
In a word, sumptuous. Each of the 96 rooms features a private balcony or terrace, spacious marble bathroom and Venetian artisanal fixtures, such as Fortuny light fixtures.
What's for breakfast?
Fill your boots for a day's sightseeing with the Cipriani's exceptional spread. The buffet is heaped with freshly baked confections like custard-stuffed brioche, seasonal jam tarts and the local fruit cake delicacy pan del Doge, as well as Italian charcuterie and cheeses (who says you can't start the day with a slab of gooey Gorgonzola?). Be sure to slather your yoghurt or toast with the raw honeycomb from nearby Sant'Erasmo island. There's also an à la carte menu offering eggs and cold-pressed juices.
How about lunch and dinner?
Michelin-starred Oro restaurant lives up to its name, with guests dining beneath a golden dome on an eight-course tasting menu from Noma-trained chef Riccardo Canella. Looking for something a little less formal? The overwater Cip's Club excels at classic Venetian dishes like wafer-thin carpaccio, clam spaghetti and stuffed artichoke flowers. In summer, there's also seafood and oyster bar Il Porticciolo.
The bright, airy bar, left, and a fresh dairy breakfast station.
Is there a bar?
Naturalmente. Bar Gabbiano is the place to go for cocktails, specifically, a bellini, which was the first drink on the menu when Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry's Bar and creator of the peach-and-prosecco concoction, opened the hotel. After that, you'll want to sample la nina's passion, an entirely new drink whipped up by the hotel's veteran mixologist for none other than George Clooney. The drink features elderflower liqueur, sparkling wine, lime juice and passion fruit.
The Casanova Wellness Centre woos stressed-out visitors with its anti-jet-lag, sleep-promoting and garden-themed rituals - the latter involving a citrus foot bath and rosemary-scented massage. Come summertime, the saltwater outdoor swimming pool is one of the glitziest places to hang out in Venice. The hotel can organise children's activities and cooking classes for those who require entertainment.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
In the Cipriani's restaurants and bars, there's clearly an effort to source ingredients locally, including some from the hotel's own gardens (which are watered with rainwater as much as possible). Single-use plastic has almost been stamped out altogether, and there's monthly staff training on waste reduction. Globally, Belmond aims to get certified by eco-benchmarking group EarthCheck by the end of this year.
Take a peek inside Belmond Hotel Cipriani...
What about accessibility?
All restaurants, the spa and some bedrooms are now fully accessible, and staff will prepare and plan with guests to help make water taxi transport as comfortable as possible. More widely, local government has been improving accessibility to the city's sights, such as adding ramps over bridges.
What's the crowd like?
A-list stars rub shoulders with Old Money.
Within a short walk I can find…
Once the private launch deposits you at San Marco, big-hitter sights like St Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace are mere steps away. From there, you can meander onto the Rialto (10 mins), Gallerie dell'Accademia (15 mins) or Peggy Guggenheim Collection (20 mins).
Things I should know…
In your room, look out for the beautiful linen-bound concierge box, which contains details of behind-the-scenes private tours and experiences that the hotel can organise.
Doubles cost from £894 a night.