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LUXURY HOTELS: Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice, Italy
Style: CLASS in capital letters. Refined, sophisticated ease.
Scene: Canal's-edge Perfectly poised and positioned, it is the best address in Venice, the city's oldest hotel within easy walking distance to the great art treasures and shopping heaven.
Seen in the lobby: If you see a famous face but don't know whether to believe your eyes. Do.

It doesn't have an imposing façade on Venice's Grand Canal. Nor is it in the Piazza San Marco. Yet the Luna Hotel Baglioni is linked to both by virtue of history, location and reputation. It is the best discreet address in Venice.

You could call La Luna (as the Venetians affectionately refer to it) the ante-chamber to the finest drawing room in the world, as Napoleon called the Piazza San Marco. Turn right out of the hotel's street entrance, left off the pier entrance and literally within a few steps, you are in the piazza staring at its star attraction, the superb, domed, Byzantine-influence, Basilica San Marco, its mosaics glittering like jewels in the morning sun, and alongside, the pink and white marble of the beautiful but slightly sinister Doges Palace. Enter Napoleon's drawing room and you'll hear the orchestras at work. Time for a coffee at Café Florian. Will we sit in its romantic interior (Casanova was a patron), or outside, marveling at the action in the piazza?

luna hotel baglioni entrance
luna hotel baglioni entrance
entrance luna hotel baglioni
guest room
luna hotel baglioni suite

While La Luna is not directly on the Grand Canal, it has its own pier on a small side canal where the varnished-hull hotel boat is waiting at your feet, ready to whisk you away on a whim. (Ideal for airport or railway station access).

More significantly, a gondola dock lies opposite. I could spend hours looking down from my suite watching them off duty, their graphic handspeak much more eloquent than the human voice.

Once a church, later the Luna became a hostelry, Osteria della Luna where the Knights Templar stayed en route to the Holy Land in the Twelfth century. It is considered to be the oldest inn in Venice. But the sign of a moon only went up in 1574. Venice doesn't rush things.

The lobby is low key and restrained. Cast your eye over the detail: a red Verona marble floor, walls covered with fine Italian and French silks, and opposite the reception desk in the Sala Caminetto, a handsome fireplace, precious antiques and paintings, Venetian mirrors and Murano glass chandeliers.

If you see a famous face but don't know whether to believe your eyes. Do. In all probability it is an internationally-renowned conductor, (Zubin Mehta stays here), an opera singer (Andrea Bocelli), diplomats, princes and princesses, presidents or Rock Royalty like Elton John. All have stayed here - plus a parade of Hollywood legends.

A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the hotel has 104 rooms in all, including 15 suites and 22 junior suites. Bathrooms are all-marble, with bathtub, shower, large mirrors, beautiful fixtures and smartly packaged toiletries in Baglioni black. All rooms are equipped with flat screen TV, satellite multichannel, Wi-Fi, direct dial telephone and iPod docking stations.

Perfectly poised and positioned, it is within easy walking distance to the great art treasures and shopping heaven.

My imagination plays tricks as I mentally morph into an 18th century principessa (or courtesan perhaps?)

Step outside the hotel's street entrance and you are face-to-face with the leather luxuries of Bottega Veneta, turn left and you're in Roberto Cavalli, further along are Emilio Pucci, Valentino, and other prestigious labels. The Luna Hotel Baglioni has exclusive partnerships with Bally, Kiton, La Perla, Burberry and Trussardi, and upon booking, you can arrange to try on your purchases in your hotel room.

One of Venice's major attractions is Theatre. Some say Venice is theatre. La Luna has a partnership with the Gran Teatro La Fenice, remembered for the devastating fire a couple of decades ago that nearly spelt its end. It has been exquisitely restored and is now considered one of the best theatres in the world and is one of Venice's 'must sees'.

The hotel also has an exclusive collaboration with the Peggy Guggenheim museum which is housed in her one-time villa, the old Palazzo Venier de' Leoni. The collection comprises eye-popping works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Dalì, Magritte and more.

The hotel too, has its own magnificent artwork - the ceiling of the Marco Polo Ballroom which is enhanced by eighteenth century frescoes, painted by pupils of Tiepolo, in the rococo style of the period. For fear of spilling my breakfast coffee - yes, breakfast is served here - I try and capture the ceiling in my compact mirror. It doesn't do it justice. The two longer walls of the ballroom, feature canvases depicting genteel life in eighteenth century Venice alongside scenes of pagan pleasures of Carnevale. The ballroom is the setting for lavish masked parties during Carnevale, as well as being much in demand for wedding receptions.

My imagination plays tricks as I mentally morph into an 18th century principessa (or courtesan perhaps?) and see myself clad in gorgeous silks, powdered wig, with mask, fan and a hopefully a host of admirers. Were it a reality, the hotel can arrange costume-hire for Carnevale - in fact I see two elaborately costumed figures at the top of the stairs. Like Venice, is it a chimera or is it real. Does it matter?

Check in: San Marco 1243, 30124 Venice, Italy
Reservations: Leading Hotels of the World www.lhw.com/baglioni
Ultimate Luxury:  The Presidential Suite also known as 'Giorgione Suite' in homage to the painter, is built over two levels. On the top floor of the hotel, the lower level has all of the opulent fittings and flourishes of an 18th century palazzo,(plus mod cons), while the upper level has an altana, a typical Venetian wooden terrace surrounded by hedges of jasmine, rosemary, and lavender and unrivalled views across the rooftops of Venice to the lagoon and beyond.
Insider Secrets: The tiny balcony bar with no more than four tables for two overlooking the gondolier dock. Perfect for sipping a spritze - Prosecco and Aperol - while doing a bit of talent -spotting.
The Little Things: The superb trio of tiramisu desserts served in individual glasses in the fabulous Le Canova Restaurant.
Junior Luxies: Special menus at Le Canova; tour of the Venice Naval Museum and activities at Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
Dress code: That enviable effortless nonchalance that Italians affect better anyone else in the world. Genuine casual elegance. Look and learn. Then shop for the right accessories.
Perfect luggage: Quality is the only way to go. Probably Hermes or Vuitton and others of similar ilk, as long as they are authentic, worn, even a trifle frayed. New is a no-no as are copies.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www. baglionihotels.com www.lhw.com
Maggy Oehlbeck 23/8/10
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