Palazzina Grassi, Venice, Italy

For a taste of contemporary Venetian glamour, Philippe Starck's Palazzina Grassi, located in Venice's San Marco district, delivers.

As sultry as you'd expect of a Philippe Starck-designed hotel, Palazzina Grassi is decadence personified. In fact, its glamorous reputation and cult celebrity following precedes it - Johnny Depp stayed here for a month stint while filming The Tourist (his third-level suite with resplendent views of the Grand Canal would sway us towards an extended stay too).

Located in Venice's San Marco district, Palazzina Grassi reflects the glitz inferred by its neighbourhood. Ensure your bags are loaded with a host of Italian fashions - think Florence's Gucci, Milan's Prada and Trivero's Ermenegildo Zegna - and head for home (which for the next few days is Ramo Grassi, 3247, 30124 Venezia).


Philippe Starck's small bedrooms are his trademark - a feature of his work which rarely rallies potential bookers. While Palazzina Grassi's smallest rooms - the superiors - aren't exactly spacious, clever design components alter your impression of room size. Pale walls and rooms split over two levels create an airiness, enhanced further by Starck's backlit mirrored walls and white draping. While all rooms are more or less the same in design, with renovations across the board last year meaning premium bathrooms at every room spec, there are some with a little added joosh. The third-floor suite (where Mr Depp stayed) is accessible only by private elevator and is kitted out with a hamam (all the more covetable considering the hotel has no spa) - plus its terrace has sweeping Venice vistas.

What's for breakfast?

A continental breakfast is included in your room rate with choice of coffee, fresh juices (choose from orange, lemon or grapefruit), yoghurt served two ways - either with fresh fruit or granola - and a roll call of breads and pastries, including vanilla crème doughnuts and honey-filled croissants. Go à la carte for a large selection of egg-based breakfasts - the eggs benedict with lobster steals the show. For something sweeter, flip to the back pages from which you'll find it hard to choose between pancakes topped with banana and maple syrup and the equally carbolicious mezza con panna (brioche with coffee slush and whipped cream).

How about lunch and dinner?

The main dining area, The Restaurant, boasts an open kitchen and is the kind of place where damask furlane slippers and velvet cloaks are practically considered uniform. Cowhide couches and buttery-leather chairs give the dining room a ritzy feel, which lends well to parties hosted in the central space throughout the year. Back to the party in your mouth...

Try the soft shell crab (known as moeche) from the lagoon served on a bed of polenta - a traditional Venetian dish and a tantalising starter. For mains, the al dente pasta with red prawns from Sicily and cod fish bottarga is top notch. Round things off with a glass of sourgal moscato d'asti and mille-feuille laced with chantilly cream and fresh berries. Toast to the chef with a shot of homemade limoncello and then (if you're still standing between the generous portions sizes and the lashings of wine) move on to the first bolthole on your list.

Is there a bar?

Start the weekend in style with a bottle of bubbly at the members- and residents-only Krug Champagne Lounge - a sultry champagnerie befitting of this district. Alternatively, pull up a stool at the long bar in the central lobby and people-watch until dusk. The long table by the show kitchen offers the best viewing point for entrances, exits and chefs at work.


Skip the gondola ride and avail of the hotel's luxury mahogany boat (available from €300) and set out for a day of exploring, pulling off from the private pier.

Things you should know

Check out is noon and the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5 per person per night on departure. Speaking of which, catch the Alilaguna airport water bus from S Angelo (a five-minute walk from the hotel) direct to the airport. The linea arancio (orange line) service runs every 30 minutes.

Within a short walk you'll find

Palazzo Grassi has been transformed into a contemporary exhibition space by Kering billionaire François-Henri Pinault. It's right next door to the hotel, so you can pop in to see Pinault's extraordinary private collection which is partially housed here.

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City Guide: Venice, Italy