Il Palazzo Experimental, Venice, Italy

Overlooking the Giudecca Canal, the waterside Il Palazzo Experimental brings together original renaissance features, designer Dorothée Meilichzon's sumptuous interiors and a creative cocktail bar with views across La Serenissima.

I was in town for the city's inaugural Nomad Circle symposium, a travelling showcase for collectible design, that had been excitingly timed with the much-awaited opening of Il Palazzo Experimental, the latest offering from Parisian cocktail bar-cum-hotelier group Experimental.

Fresh from Venice Film Festival and evenings spent in the city's most traditional palace hotels, I - a hotel fetishist and often traditionalist - was suspicious about this remodelled waterfront palazzo overlooking the Giudecca. The idea of snuffing OG Venetian features put me on edge.

Yet as I stepped off the vaporetto at Zattere and entered the hotel, all recent memories of 14th-century renaissance and rococo furnishings disappeared in an instant. This Dorsoduro-district hotel is captivating.

Its burgundy and olive fabrics nestle gently against Marmorino plaster walls of blushed hues in elephant grey and off-white. Painstakingly hand-laid terrazzo tiles pay homage to original flooring while shiny pastel mosaics adorn the walls. Never before has this design dinosaur found contemporary so spicy.


Candy-striped hallways and heavy doors with brass anchor knockers lead to lovely boudoirs here. Soft-edged arches play against pepper-flecked Breccia Capraia marble and rich upholstery: dramatic dark headboards, silken-pinstripe cushioning, sage curtains which fall from high ceilings. An old rotary telephone sits on the bedside table, and there's FM radio (read: Italian pop classics) too. A large flatscreen television masquerades as a mirror, while bidet-equipped showerrooms finished in marble and chrome are kitted out with apothecary goodies from MALIN+GOETZ. Sì grazie.

What's for breakfast?

A cold banquet laid out is, at first glance, modest, before you realise that every ingredient is of the highest quality. There's fresh sourdough, pastries, Sicilian pecorino, feta, buffalo mozzarella heavenly tomatoes, aubergine dip, boiled eggs. I eat a freshly made mushroom omelette that will forever champion all other omelettes, and wash it down with a strong coffee. As in all Italian grand-dame hotels, prosecco and fresh orange juice can be found on ice.

What about lunch and dinner?

The same glorious room (perhaps designer Dorothée Meilichzon's pièce de résistance) of booths and banquettes serves a small daily-changing lunch menu by a twinkly-eyed chef. On one busy afternoon during my stay, he whipped up some mini lamb-skewers, arancini and a tomato salad for me.

By night, Ristorante Adriatica sees the Italian Supper Club taking residence - regions of Friuli, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, and, of course, Veneto are celebrated across an evolving menu.

Is there a bar?

The Experimental Group do not disappoint with a sleek and contemporary Venetian bar (think: reimagined bellinis) in a space designed by Cristina Celestino with a secret garden, looking out onto the canal. Sip seltzers from Murano glass tumblers and then get tipsy on the bartender's recommended cocktails.

Coffee machines in Italian hotel rooms are like a heartbeat to humans, and the general vibe at the hotel - teeming with coffee-table books, design pieces, fashionistas, foodies and classicists - is pulsating.

Things I should know…

Take time to wander the streets of Venice on foot, and be sure to take home some glassware from a visit to Murano island. Stop by the breathtaking Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in Cannaregio, an area of beauty and antiquity best reached by electric riva boats - use Classic Boats Venice which restores gorgeous old models, uses green energy, and supports campaigns such as Plastic Free Venice Lagoon.

Within a short walk I can find…

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum. You can peruse the plentiful souvenir shops to buy Murano-glass earrings. A five-minute waterbus ride away is the excellent Le Stanze del Vetro, which exhibits glassware on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.