Built on water, steeped in history and synonymous with romance, Venice is a fabled destination with a glorious past. Once a major power in the Mediterranean, today this Northern Italian city and its lagoon are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every two years, the city hosts the Venetian Biennale – a major contemporary art exhibition which incorporates the famous Venice Film Festival, and one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. This year the Biennale opens on 1st June, the same date as the launch of Amanresorts’ fourth Mediterranean destination – Aman Canal Grande Venice.
Home to the Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica, it is perhaps the Grand Canal which is Venice’s most iconic feature. Meandering in a sinuous s-shape through the heart of the city, the Grand Canal is its main thoroughfare, lined with more than 170 gracious buildings between 200 and 700 years old. Physical reminders of the city’s grand heritage, most were built to demonstrate the wealth and artistry of the Republic of Venice in its heyday. It is in one of these regal old homes directly on the water that Aman is housed, fusing the romance and history of this legendary city with the hospitality and service for which Amanresorts is renowned.
Aman is situated in the historic district of San Polo – the smallest of the six sestieri (districts) of Venice. Named for the Church of San Polo, this is also one of the oldest parts of the city, known for its beautiful palaces, churches and market. The palazzo which houses the resort and its 24 suites consists of two five-storey adjoining buildings, one of which was built in the 16th century by the architect Gian Giacomo dé Grigi. Known as Palazzo Papadopoli, it was originally commissioned by the Coccina family of Bergamo, but is named for the two brothers – Nicolò and Angelo Papadopoli Aldobrandini – who bought the property at the beginning of the 19th century. They entrusted the internal decoration of the piano nobile – the main living area of the palazzo, to Michelangelo Guggenheim, a leading exponent of the Neo-Renaissance and Rococo styles. He reinvented the space, turning the palazzo into one of the most significant examples of these styles in Venice. The brothers also bought two adjacent buildings which they razed in order to build two gardens.
In this city of canals, it is fitting that guests will arrive at Aman by water, alighting at a landing that leads directly into the resort’s Reception Hall. With its soaring ceilings and historic frescos and reliefs, the hall offers an elegant welcome, and sets the tone for things to come.
A sweeping staircase rises from the Reception Hall through two levels to arrive at the Dining Room on the piano nobile – the grandest floor of the palazzo – which comprises three distinctive rooms and serves Italian and Asian cuisines. Consisting of dining and lounge areas, the Main Room has large glass windows which overlook the Grand Canal, while the Yellow and Red Dining Rooms – so named for their colour schemes – overlook the Grand Canal and the resort’s Garden Terrace respectively. The Bar provides a cosy setting with canal views.
On the resort’s fourth level one finds the Salon, Library, Stanza del Tiepolo and Stanza del Guarana. A regal yet relaxing space where guests can enjoy light refreshments, the Salon is divided into two large areas with expansive windows providing commanding views of the Grand Canal. Similar views are enjoyed by the adjacent Library. The Stanza del Tiepolo features elegant chess and backgammon boards, as well as card and jigsaw tables. The Stanza del Guarana is ideal for private dining and meetings. These areas are only accessible to resort guests. An elevator provides access to the intimate Roof Terrace which offers wonderful views over the rooftops of the city, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Fronting the Grand Canal is the Garden Terrace, one of very few private gardens on the canal. During the warmer summer months, guests can dine al fresco in the garden. Aman Canal Grande has a second hidden Private Garden with soaring trees. This garden provides a serene setting for resort guests as well as walking access to San Polo.
Aman Canal Grande offers a total of 24 suites, most with a unique layout and design. Many feature protected frescos and reliefs that reflect past periods of art and architecture, and furnishings throughout the rooms are contemporary, yet of a simple aesthetic. Most suites provide combined living areas and bedrooms, as well as linked dressing areas and bathrooms. Each offers a king-size bed, an armoire enclosing a personal bar, a writing desk, a sofa or twin lounge chairs, and a TV and docking station. Lighting is most often provided by table and standing lamps. There are a total of four suite categories, differentiated by architectural details, size and view. These include Palazzo Bedrooms with views of the Private Garden, Palazzo Chambers – most with lovely views of the Grand Canal, Palazzo Stanzas with elevated views of the Grand Canal, and five Signature Suites: the Maddalena Stanza features silk wall coverings, high frescoed ceilings and a chandelier in the bathroom, as well as views over the Garden Terrace and the Grand Canal; the Papadopoli Stanza has lofty, frescoed ceilings in the bedroom and the bathroom, and views of the Garden Terrace and the Grand Canal; the Sansovino Stanza features an original fireplace designed by Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino, one of Venice’s most famous architects in the early 16th century; the Alcova Tiepolo Suite offers a Chinese painted sitting room and a bedroom ceiling by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the great 18th-century artist; and the Grand Canal Suite features a beautiful sitting room with an arched window providing exceptional views of the Grand Canal.
The resort’s spa treatment rooms are located, almost secretly, on the third level, and are accessed via a small stairwell which leads to a discrete reception room. Dimly lit with low ceilings, the area exudes the atmosphere of a sanctuary, and provides three single rooms, each with a dressing area and bathroom. One of the rooms has a soaking tub that can be used in conjunction with body scrubs. The property also has a small gym offering aerobic and strength-conditioning equipment and an area for free weights and stretching.
Celebrated throughout the world for its art and architecture, Venice is a destination with something for everyone, from gourmands to historians. Whether you are looking for a romantic gondola ride along the city’s picturesque canals, a breakfast cappuccino overlooking a sleepy piazza, or a trip back in time through the city’s churches, Venice is sure to enchant you within moments of your arrival.
Situated in one of the oldest sestieri and with direct city and water access, Aman enjoys a prime location for exploring all that Venice has to offer, including all the festivities associated with the Venetian Biennale. The first Biennale was held in 1895, and the event became more and more international throughout the first few decades of the 20th century. Today the festival celebrates art, music, film, theatre and dance with international pavilions attracting over 300,000 visitors. The event runs from 1st June to 24th November 2013.
Other Venetian attractions include discovering the city by water – an essential Venetian rite of passage. Being poled or paddled gently down a winding canal, ostensibly forgotten by time, is a magical experience as well as the best way to get a taste of the real Venice. Aman offers a waterborne tour of Venice delightfully free of tourist trappings. Of course one can also explore the city on foot. Attractions in San Polo near Aman Canal Grande include the Rialto Bridge, the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto, the Campo San Polo, the House of Goldoni, the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the Church of San Rocco and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Other world-renowned sites just a short boat ride from Aman include Saint Mark’s Basilica and Piazza San Marco.
It is not just the city’s physical attractions that have made Venice such a popular travel destination today. A large part of the city’s allure is its rich culture, apparent in its music, art, glass, festivals and fashion. Venice is famous for its ornate glasswork, its masks and of course, its Carnival which is celebrated from 26th December until Shrove Tuesday every year.
From Venice you can arrive via train at the Stazione Santa Lucia, or by boat. Marco Polo Airport lies 12 kilometres outside of Venice.
Amanresorts was founded by Adrian Zecha who envisioned a collection of intimate retreats in beautiful surrounds with the unassuming, warm hospitality of a gracious private residence. The first, Amanpuri (place of peace) in Phuket, Thailand, introduced the concept, and since then, Amanresorts has grown to encompass 25 resorts located in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, Greece, Indonesia, India, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, the Turks & Caicos Islands and the USA.