From Venice With Love
With the spectacle of Spectre soon to be troubling the box office, Travel Editor Mark Southern took to the waterways of the floating city to experience the most famous hotel on stilts.
As originally published in Footballers’ Life Magazine, 2015
You know those times in your life when it feels like you’re in a movie? At the risk of exposing this writer’s psychological health to the world, there’s normally an orchestral soundtrack playing in your mind, as the Director of Photography shoots the unfolding scene from your eye-line. We all get those, right? Please? Anyway, I’m a big fan of those moments.
These cinematic daydreams can cross genres, too. During a bad break-up, it’s a wrought melodrama. In the midst of falling in love, it’s a giddy romantic comedy where anything could happen next. However, when you’re sipping champagne in the back of a cream leather-lined, oak panelled water taxi crossing the choppy Venetian bay at midnight, with a thunderstorm crashing around you, the only music racing through your mind is shaken not stirred.
For Venice is a Bond town as much as any you’ll visit, and has indeed appeared in 007 lore in From Russia With Love, Moonraker, and Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale. It’s got everything a dashing secret agent would want for a weekend away, although it was with some disappointment that the aforementioned water taxi fails to deploy any kind of invisible/submersible/torpedo gadgets. Although there is a red button…
As the boat slows and the water calms, we turn off the sharp waves of the open water and into the quieter side canals of Venice by night. We feel the early Autumn chill diminished by the tall imposing architecture looming over us, and the warm glow of Italian hospitality filters through the banks of thick wooden shutters, casting shadows that make the impossibly beautiful even more so.
We sail under the Rialto Bridge, and turn a right, as the engine shuts down and the taxi drifts serenely to the pontoon outside possibly the most stylish hotel in Italy, let alone Venice, the Aman.
If that name rings a movie-star shaped bell with you, it’s because last year it became the centre of the showbiz universe when the most 007 actor to never play 007, George Clooney chose the hotel for the most exclusive celebrity wedding of the decade. Guests at the Oceans 11 star’s nuptials included Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Cindy Crawford, and Bono, as Hollywood starlight was applied to the most glamorous joint in town.
As we step off the water taxi, we are greeted by a smiley and welcoming concierge, who walks us through the modestly grandiose entrance and into a marble palace. This is our first real surprise of the evening, as the seven star decadence is to be expected, but rarely does this level of splendour go hand in hand with such friendly and amusing staff. It is something we encounter throughout our stay, and is something that elevates the experience from stunning to special.
We are guided to our room, past a collection of antique and contemporary art works, and even one floor to ceiling mirror so well polished I managed to walk straight into it, ruining my personal Bond ambitions in one fell swoop.
As expected, the room is nothing short of sumptuous, with a spacious living and sleeping area, and cavernous bathroom, with a roll-top bath, and more gadgets than even Mr Bond would be able to deal with.
We wake the following day, and try breakfast in the extravagantly appointed dining room. The ceiling looks like the Sistine Chapel, the sculptures look like David has been in already, and the paintings feature works from Masters of the Renaissance. It’s the kind of place that Hollywood royalty would feel at home in.
After a walk through the streets, we find ourselves back in the hotel for lunch, with the hotel being unique for having a garden, in a town where very little land is not built upon. We have a delicious and freshly caught seafood lunch, watching the gondolas and taxis gliding by, and the Indian summer sunshine fall upon us.
We think we’ll see out the afternoon in a little more shade, and find a private courtyard garden at the top of the hotel, overlooking the visual spectacle that is the Venetian skyline, before relaxing in the luxurious spa, with one of the most intensely invigorating massages you’ll try.
As we check out, we do so with one intention. That if we are back in town again any time soon we will never say never again about revisiting. A wonderful experience worthy of any A-lister.
This article originally appeared in Footballers’ Life Magazine, 2015. See below for full article: