Hotel check: Bauer Il Palazzo

BACKGROUND

The hotel occupies two adjoining buildings but that are branded as separate properties – Il Palazzo, the historic 19th-century part at the front on the Grand Canal, and L’Hotel, the newer 1930s addition at the back with an ugly Brutalist-style façade (a bit of a shock for pretty Venice). The original hotel opened in 1860, but it was 2000 when the two properties were revamped and integrated.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Arriving at the five-star Il Palazzo, I entered through the canal-side entrance on foot (you can also pull up at the jetty by boat), and was welcomed in the dimly lit reception area by staff who took my luggage and offered me a glass of prosseco outside on the terrace. This came icy cold with a bowl of olives. I was then checked in and issued with a key card before being shown to my room.

Guests need to take the wide old lift up to level one first, then walk down a long red-carpeted corridor illuminated with Murano glass chandeliers, to another set of lifts that serve floors two to seven. Here, you can also see the grand spiraling staircase that connects to the neighbouring hotel. I was on the sixth floor, and after being given a quick tour of the room, a porter arrived with my suitcase.

Il Palazzo is the more atmospheric of the two hotels, given its heritage. If you can afford one of the top category suites, they are bedecked in beautiful original features – engraved mirrors, Venetian stucco, mosaic floors and lots of Murano glass. They also provide wonderful views of the Grand Canal. Décor throughout tends to be classical, with lots of dark wood, gold, floral patterning and marble, but some are more modern in appearance.

WHERE IS IT?

Venice is made up of six sestiere (districts), with Il Palazzo/L’Hotel located in San Marco, at the heart. This is one of the most desirable districts in which to be located. It is also very close to the Westin Europa and Regina (click here to read a review).

The hotel enjoys an enviable position on the Grand Canal and is within walking distance of St Mark’s Square. You can either take a water taxi to its private jetty at the front or arrive on foot via streets at the back.

You can take the Alilaguna public boat for €27 return to San Marco but it takes 60-90 minutes, depending on if you catch the faster or the slower one. From here, it is a 20-minute walk. Water taxis from Marco Polo airport can be arranged by the hotel and cost about €150 one-way.

ROOM FACILITIES

Décor, space and views vary depending on the room category, with the lowest-level Deluxe rooms either looking on to the street or the inner courtyard. Top suites look out over the city or the Grand Canal. All allow for the sound of church bells in the morning, a lovely informal alarm clock.

Standard rooms start from 25 sqm and offer amenities such as free wifi, walk-in wardrobes, minibars, flatscreen TVs and toiletries made by inmates at the Santa Maria degli Angeli women’s prison. Some have marble bathrooms with separate tubs and showers. No irons can be used in the rooms – this is policy across Venice.

I was staying in a Deluxe room with a view, which meant it had a step-out terrace with space for a chair, and looked out towards the domes of San Marco’s Basilica. It wasn’t a big room, but was fine for a short stay. The black and white marble bathroom had a combined bath and shower and electronic black-out shutters could be brought down to cover the windows. I slept well in the comfortable bed.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

Breakfast for guests of Il Palazzo is served on the stunning seventh-floor open-air terrace, Settimo Cielo, with sweeping views of the city, while guests of L’Hotel eat at the waterside De Pisis semi-al fresco restaurant on ground level. I enjoyed breakfast on the roof one morning, discovering a glorious panorama taking in the Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute opposite.

Staff were charming, happily moving a table into the sun for me and serving fresh coffee. A buffet was laid out inside, with superb fruit salad, pastries, cakes, yoghurt, cheese, cereal, pressed juice and chilled prosseco. Watch out for the seagulls though – they will try and steal your food if you leave it unattended (there are sticks on hand to scare them away if you need to).

Guests can also eat dinner at De Pisis, which serves gourmet à la carte Italian cuisine and even has a caviar menu, or pop in to B Bar for a post-prandial. There is live music here every Friday from 7pm, and a DJ set on Saturday from 10pm.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES

There is no dedicated meeting space in Il Palazzo but the suites can be booked, as can the rooftop terrace, which closes at 11am and can be hired for private events of about 70 people. Alternatively, the facilities in L’Hotel can be used – there is a ballroom for up to 110 people seated cabaret-style, two smaller boardrooms and a fourth space for up to 100 delegates.

LEISURE FACILITIES

There is a two-room gym on the eighth level shared between the two hotels – it’s open from 8am to 8pm fitted out with Technogym equipment, free weights, saunas and steam rooms. There is also natural light and access to a rooftop spa bath on a sun terrace – just ask at reception if you want to use it. It is available 24 hours a day. Guests can also take the free transfer boat over the Bauer Palladio property for use of the spa.

VERDICT

As with every five-star hotel in Venice, the Il Palazzo is expensive, and you will need to splash out on one of the higher category rooms to really feel like you are having a luxury experience (the views, in particular, make the difference).

Breakfast on the roof is a highlight, though, no matter which room you are staying in and the location is superb. A charming Venetian hotel on the Grand Canal, with the added benefit on facilities shared with its adjoining sister property. Service is also very good.

FACT FILE

HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 191 rooms and suites in total across 14 categories – 72 in the older Il Palazzo part of the building and 119 in the newer L’Hotel part. Almost half the rooms in Il Palazzo are suites (38 rooms and 34 suites).

HIGHLIGHTS Breakfast on the roof terrace, the views of the Grand Canal from many rooms, the central location near St Mark’s Square and the free wifi.

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in August started from €496 for a Deluxe bedroom.

CONTACT Bauer Il Palazzo, San Marco; tel +39 415 207 022; ilpalazzovenezia.com

Jenny Southan


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