Lord Byron once wrote " Venice once was dear, the pleasant place of all festivity". Even 200 years ago, the city was being eulogised. Its melancholy airs - the once indomitable republic turned gothic theme park, its marble palaces slowly sinking into the silt - are what's made it so beguiling to generations of visitors. Listen to the lapping waves and sighs and footsteps echoing along labyrinthine passageways. Look at the lonely bell towers standing sentinel on abandoned islands. Nostalgia cloaks the place like lagoon mist.
Hotels here typically lean into the theme - all period set-pieces of antique furniture and Canaletto prints. But Venice is still a living city, according to Francesca Rinaldo and Alessandro Gallo, the founders of local sneaker brand Golden Goose. And one with an edgier cultural seam than many outsiders expect. This is exactly what the duo's first foray into hospitality aims to surface. Sweeping away the cobwebs, they've created a refreshing mix of new-meets-old they're calling "postvenezianità" ("post-Venetian-ness"). Sure, the hotel occupies a storied 13th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal, opposite the Rialto Market. But its darkly glamorous interiors are filled with modern and contemporary art, all of it somehow linked to Venice. Pieces from arte povera and poesia visiva, both Italian avant-garde movements of the 60s and 70s, prove that this city didn't cease to be a cultural powerhouse when Veronese and Titian laid down their paintbrushes.
Windows on the world in room 10, left, and the canalside hotel entrance.
The sleek, minimal furniture and bespoke fixtures are locally made, highlighting the creative talents active across the lagoon today. On the ground floor, Venice M'Art is the sort of mixed-use hosting hub that's common in New York and London hotels yet virtually unseen in this city: head here to tap away on your laptop, find some cool threads in the concept store and pop-up market (a nod to the building's roots as a merchants' storage and trading house) or people-watch over a negroni. A pleasant place of festivity indeed.
There are 20, with a further 25 opening this year. No two room layouts are the same, and each pad follows its own decorative theme. Opt for Veni Etiam (room 25), named after the photographic series by Renato D'Agostin that hangs on the walls, or surround yourself with arte povera pieces in A Gallerist's Perspective (room 23). With its four-poster bed and pleasingly symmetrical layout, we were supremely pleased with Venice in Gold (room 45), a homage to the heavenly hue that fills the interiors of Basilica di San Marco - one that has been the mainstay of Venetian battilori (goldbeaters) for centuries. The room's artworks include Greek artist Panos Tsagaris' Golden Newspaper series, where gold leaf obscures the stories on New York Times covers.
What's for breakfast?
No generic buffet spread for Venice Venice's fashion-crowd trailblazers; instead, a stand of freshly baked pastries and seasonal fruits is brought to the white linen-draped table. There is also an à la carte offering of seasonal hot dishes (the burrata-topped spinach frittata was a winner during our winter visit). Lie-in lovers will be glad to know breakfast is served until 11am.
How about lunch and dinner?
The kitchen keeps it authentically Venetian, serving the bite-sized cicheti (think crostini, anchovies, meatballs) popular in bàcari around the Rialto Market. A pop art-style menu also lists more substantial all-day dining offerings, which you can savour in the sotoportego - a photography-lined passageway - or on its sheltered canal-side terrace.
Is there a bar?
Venice M'Art is your go-to for cocktails and wine. Sip the signature americano, or a caustraure spritz, which combines Campari, prosecco, lemon foams and artichoke liqueur (a nod to the lagoon's springtime vegetable delicacy), while rubbing shoulders with the stylish locals who pop in for aperitivo hour. Hotel guests also get access to the Venice Bitter Club on the piano nobile (first floor).
Rooms feature state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen TVs, rose-scented bath products and Bialetti coffee machines, with rates including minibar items (cheers to that). There's a spa treatment room if you want to book a massage, and a pay-per-item laundry service.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
Working with Venice-based artisans - whether they be furniture makers or bakers - is a core part of the hotel's social sustainability strategy, serving to both support the local economy and minimise carbon footprint. Generously sized Erose toiletries in the en-suites are designed to be resealed and taken home.
No two room layouts are the same at Venice Venice.
What about accessibility?
Two rooms are suitable for guests requiring assistance with mobility. Common areas are generally all accessible.
What's the crowd like?
Cool, continental creatives
Within a short walk I can find…
A 10-minute stroll will see you in San Marco Square, where the domed basilica and Ducal Palace await. As always in Venice, the walk itself is a wonder, the maze of lanes leading you over footbridges and through hidden plazas where some church or osteria begs you to linger. Of course, you may be getting around by water, too. From the hotel's doorstep, a hand-rowed traghetto scoots across to the Rialto Market stalls and bridge, plus the vaporetto stop for heading further afield. Art fans shouldn't miss the Fondazione Prada or Ca' Pesaro (home to masterpieces by Rodin and Klimt), either.
Things I should know…
If there was ever a time to splurge on a water taxi, it's now. Eschewing the street-side entrance via the boutique (which is fine but nothing to write home about), you'll instead disembark on the jetty. Glass doors slide open to reveal a semi-submerged, candlelit lobby and marble Renaissance-era statuary. On arrival, accept the team member's offer to explain "how your room works" - with controls and plug points tucked away in not-so-obvious places, you'll be glad of the pointers.