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LUXURY HOTELS: Centurion Palace, Venice, Italy
Our water taxi pulls up at the jetty of the Centurion Palace at the mouth of the Grand Canal. Its gothic facade is as frilly as any in Venice; its stone work as intricately patterned as old lace. Ah, yet another glorious palazzo, the stuff of Venetian fantasy. Well yes...and no.
That is because, like a Venetian lady in her Carnivale mask, this palazzo hides a secret. Outside she is all tradition but inside she has a 21st century soul. It's as if Catherine de' Medici had turned into Lady Gaga.

guest room
grand canal
junior suite superior

Without a doubt the palace has one of the best positions in Venice. The Grand Canal laps at her skirts and her highly decorated arched windows seem to stare right across at the dome of St Mark's cathedral and the Giudecca like heavily made up eyes. A vaporetta stop from the frenetic action but yet on the quiet side of the canal the hotel is next to the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, between the Punta della Dogana and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. It makes us breath a sign of relief every time we escape back across the canal to the quite shady alley ways that surround the hotel.
The hotel is a member of Small Luxury Hotels, so you know you are going to get a suitable level of luxe. It has a respectable historic pedigree too and is housed in the former convent of Palazzo Genovese. Even its name has historic significance; Centurion refers to the ancient Roman coin depicting Antinous, (a confidante of Emperor Hadrian, but then you know that didn't you?) which was discovered when the building was being restored.
However it is the luxury hotel interiors which you are either going to love or hate. As we step off our private launch and onto the wooden hotel jetty I can see through the glass doors to a courtyard that looks traditional enough, but once in the lobby all that changes. There's no marble, no gold leaf and no frescoed ceilings. Instead the reception desk is lit up like a cocktail bar and a sofa undulated like a leather wave along the wall. And so it begins.
...It's as if Catherine de' Medici had turned into Lady Gaga.
Modern design is everywhere. All the hotel's 50 rooms are different; lamps twist sinuously, ceiling lights hang like sixties disco balls and the bathroom walls are burnished gold (ah there's the modern touch on gold leaf). 'Eclectic' is how the hotel's brochure describes all this.
In some rooms design over substance is a bit of a problem and you'd been hard pushed to swing an Italian alley cat and corridors are chocolate-dark and narrow. However there are lots of places where this modern take in a city drenched in history works well. Take the Presidential Suite for example, with walls as red as a courtesan's dress and patterned like old brocade, contrasted with white modular chairs and angular sofas. Meanwhile, the scalloped windows frame a scene like Canaletto painting with gondolas drifting by.
We sit down for breakfast in Antinoo's restaurant with white modular walls that wouldn't be out of place in a space pod. Yes somehow the walls seem to ripple towards the canal as if light from the water was making patterns on the ceiling.
Veteran visitors to Venice who may have seen one palazzo too many will probably love this innovative take on tradition. First timers eager to imbibe the soul of La Serenissima may well be disappointed.
Check in: Centurion Palace, Dorsoduro 173, 30123 Venezia, Italy.
Ultimate Luxury: The view of the Grand Canal from the presidential Suite
Most Indulgent Moment: The serenity which, despite the name, isn't always easy to find in La Serenissima
Insider Secrets: Other hotels also run by the Sina group, such as the Grand Hotel Villa Medici in Florence, offer a range of minimalist or more traditional rooms, but are less flamboyantly modern that the Centurion Palace
Junior Luxies: Not encouraged but not shunned either
Dress code: Sleek lines, white or black or you might clash with the walls
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.slh.com  www.centurionpalacevenezia.com   www.sinahotels.com
Hilary Doling 25/3/12
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