The Luxury Travel Bible - LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzina Grassi, Venice, Italy

LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzina Grassi, Venice, Italy
Style: Death in Venice starring designer Philippe Starck
Scene: In the heart of old Venice on the Canal Grande near Palazzo Grassi
Seen in Lobby: Chic international set trying hard to play

There is a modern moulded head of a bull stuck to the hotel entrance door. You can only stand and ponder. Yes, the noble family homes of medieval Venice - which this hotel once was - wore lavish doorknockers. Yes, there used to be a Pamplona-style bull run through the narrow streets to nearby San Marco Square during Carnivale. Yes, this is a Philippe Starck-designed hotel .

This third musing perhaps clears up the use of a bull's head best. Why is it that the proclivities of people so often resemble their name? Starck does not design in the spare sense of the word stark. His creations follow the form of being blunt. Extreme. He uses a palette of heavy metals with the revved-up insouciance of a rock star and channels it into his own inventive take on baroque.

exterior
exterior
bathroom
palazzina rocking chair
bar
palazzina
executive suite

 
It is probably no coincidence that a former extreme rally driver turned hotelier, Emanuele Garosci, called on Starck to reinvent a way for Venice to see itself. The interiors of Palazzina Grassi do just that. Never more so literally than in the 26 suites of this new hotel where Venetian glass-style mirrors are used in extremis.
 
In the four Gran Canal suites overlooking the Canal Grande, oversize mirrors take up more than their fair share of the view. The walk-in robe provides no escaping oneself, nor does the bathroom - both are encased in glass. Clearly this is no place to bring a new lover. Do you feel comfortable being reflected around the room while you're sitting on the loo?
 
The suites are in the typically Starck palette of white and steel. Starck's Heritage Rocking Chair in aluminium pulls into a moulded aluminium legged dining table. His affection for the great Italian designer Fornasetti shows up in the 'Julia' print lamps and chairs. Other white lampshades printed with black masks reference Venetian Carnivale.
 
The only things that are obviously old Venetian in the suite are the wooden ceiling beams which have been painted - you guessed it - white. A few rare old books are sprinkled as if attempting to ground you in some past.
 
It is probably no coincidence that a former RALLY DRIVER turned hotelier called on STARCK to reinvent a way for Venice to see itself 
 
It is a very different shade of Starck that shows up in the rest of the hotel. Large frames bearing contemporary black and white photos that are eerily lit from behind in neons. One of them glows red, with someone pictured wearing a sheet with cutouts around the eyes. It captures the theatrical play with death and decay that envelopes Venice.
 
In the public areas, bright reds and acid greens contrast the rough-hewn walls of exposed Venetian bricks that have been reclaimed from an old farmstead. In opposition to the white light found in rooms, the mood is dark and clubby but still full of winking drama. A bright-coloured rug, woven with the skeleton of a fruit of the canal fish, covers the floor beneath a bespoke Murano glass lamp sculpture in the tortured shape of seaweed and coral.
 
In PGs restaurant the open kitchen becomes a stage that spectacularly updates a traditional kitchen serving cicchetti, a Venetian tapas. Two 23 feet (seven metres) long, high chair dining tables are lit above by hanging lamps dripping long tendrils that look either like the wax of burning candles or a runny nose, depending on how you see things. Starck's rocking chair shows up again along with his baroque style sofas.
 
The look turns louche den in the G Club which is accessible only to guests and their friends. Chocolate tones in velvets and leathers create a zone of cushioned quiet comfort with sofas, chairs and dining tables. Overlooking the action on the canal, one could simply curl up here and experience Venice from a couch.
 
Check in: Palazzina Grassi, San Marco 3247, 30124 Venice. Tel: +39 041 5284644.
Ultimate Luxury: Arriving in the hotel's 1962 boat with executive style check-in, especially at Carnivale time in February when invitations to select Venetian parties can be arranged.
Most Indulgent Moment: Sipping on Krug as you read through the hotel's guest services which instead is a 'List of Vices' that encourages impassioned play.
The Little Things: You can order breakfast in the hotel to eat anywhere at any time. A must for morning-afters.
Junior Luxies: Please, really, don't even think about it.
Dress code: Think Galliano, Gaultier and Westwood.
Perfect luggage: If you happened to buy any of Starck's Samsonite range before it was discontinued break it out.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Luxury Link: www.palazzinagrassi.com
Words: Prue Rushton 30/3/10
Photos: Ivan Terestchenko,  Aldo and Cristiana Martinelli.
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