Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
Sestiere Dorsoduro, 173 Italy
Several years ago on a visit to Venice, Manos and I stayed at an absolutely lovely luxury boutique hotel within the SINA Fine Italian Hotels group called Palazzo Sant’Angelo. It is conveniently located just a few steps from the Grand Canal St. Angelo Vaporetto Ferry stop; our luxurious room had a balcony that opened overlooking the lagoon. During our stay at the St. Angelo we had the pleasure of meeting Paolo Morra, the congenial General Manager who graciously spent a good deal of time with us sharing tips on how to avoid long lines at popular sites to get the most out of our visit, and equally important for us, his personal restaurant favorites. http://www.palazzosantangelo.com/
So on my recent visit back to Venice I contacted the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group and was delighted to be told that Paolo Morra was now also General Manager at the Centurion Palace, a 5-star hotel that had been under restoration during our previous visit.
The Centurion Palace is also located on the Grand Canal but in the Dorsoduro sestiere (Dorsoduro is one of the six districts of Venice) between the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and just a short gondola ride across the canal from Piazza San Marco. The building was one of two cloisters of the San Gregorio convent and was known as Palazzo Genovese before its conversion to a hotel. Only the façade of the original building remains with just a few noteworthy exceptions: a massive 16th century fireplace and stunning wood carved ceiling in one of the Junior Suites.
While the Sant’Angelo has faithfully reproduced the opulence of 18th century Venetian style with pattered silk wall coverings, lush carpets, antique furnishings and artifacts; Centurion Palace’s Florence designer Guido Ciompi went with contemporary design to contrast with the intricate Venetian Gothic façade of the original building.
Each room and suite is individual in design and furnished with contemporary colored accents in the finest of materials. My superior room had a wood-beamed ceiling sloping down to a wonderfully comfortable king size bed. Featured on either side of the bed are alcoves with windows that open onto the Grand Canal below.
The bathroom is high-tech and large with every amenity. All the bathrooms have a different colored gilded resin high-gloss finish and one is more stunning than the other; truly a stand-out design element. There is a desk with wi-fi connectivity, a mini-bar and coffee station, a large-size safety-box, and when I arrived there was a welcome plate of delicious strawberries in chocolate pots waiting for me. Many of the rooms like mine, have a lagoon view with its mesmerizing boat traffic, ferry’s coming and going, and gondola’s plying the waterway, but only the Presidential Suite has floor to ceiling windows facing the Grand Canal which takes full advantage of the glorious façade of the building.
One early morning I heard singing and managed to get a photo from my window of a gondola with musicians on board serenading the passengers all bundled up in coats to ward against the November chill.
During excavation of the building, a Roman coin dated 200 CE was found in the foundation and it served as inspiration for the hotel’s name. The coin carried the face of the Centurion Antinous, a personal friend of Emperor Hadrian. A large reproduction plaque of the coin is on the wall in the entrance just outside the reception area.
The closest Vaporetto Ferry stop is “Salute” but if you are inclined to arrive by taxi or personal boat there is a private pier for you to disembark at the hotel’s door right on the Grand Canal. If you take the ferry, a small bridge crosses a narrow canal and a few steps take you to the garden entrance of the hotel. Full floor to ceiling glass sliding doors offer a direct line of sight past Antinoo’s café situated at the waters edge, through to the ravishing view of the imposing palaces just across the sparkling lagoon… sparkling during the day, illuminated at night.
I was fortunate to be staying at the Centurion on November 21st, during the religious holiday that gives thanks to the Madonna for saving Venice from the black plague of 1630. Basilica Santa Maria della Salute (health and salvation) was designed by renowned architect Baldassare Longhena in 1630, but it was not completed until five years after his death in 1687. The imposing church is on the tip of land that leads into the Grand Canal and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in a city replete with outstanding architecture.
Once again I was warmly welcomed to Venice by General Manager Paolo Morra and whether at the Palazzo Sant’Angelo or at the Centurion Palace, I felt like a returning honored guest.
© February 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.