VENICE is to sigh for, finds Gaby Soutar on a whistlestop visit to the five star Palladio Hotel
I should’ve ordered a bellini. Late afternoon, on an autumn day in Venice and we’re sitting in the Bauer Palladio’s three acre gardens on a pair of green benches in a gazebo that’s surrounded by clouds of chamomile and other (yet unidentified) scented plants.
The fading light was soporific and our feet were, at last, deflating, after a 165 minute early morning direct Jet2 flight from Edinburgh followed by a day pounding the streets around St Mark’s Square, including a trip to the Doge’s Palace, and over a million bridges including the Rialto.
Somebody sitting over on the patio was being delivered a long baby pink drink, served on a silver tray.
I thought about ordering one, but didn’t, because it seemed like a bit of a Harry’s Bar style cliché.
Silly me, it would’ve been the cherry (or peach) on top of a perfect moment.
A visit to the Bauers Palladio – one of four Bauers properties in the city – is full of those kind of potentially ideal scenes – we had a few, even though we were only there for one night.
It’s fun, even before you’ve checked in. To find this hotel, cut through the reception of the plush Bauers Palazzo, a five minute walk from St Mark’s Square, where your purple boat, with I Heart Bauers emblazoned on its hull, will be waiting, rocking in its dock. It taxis back and forth all day, between the Palazzo and the Palladio from 10am until 11:55pm.
Jump on for the five minute cruise across the Grand Canal to Giudecca island, where the Bauers Palladio occupies a spot on the waterfront.
Opened in 2006 after a complete restoration, this former 16th century convent was originally designed by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.
Inside, it’s low lit, dark and calm – you feel as if you can shed the stress of dodging selfie sticks in central Venice. In the main corridor, there’s the sound of tinkling water from a fountain, and the quiet communal lounge features giant sofas, oil paintings and a long wooden table topped with a vase full of faded pink hydrangeas.
However, unlike many five star hotels, it doesn’t feel contrived – the decor is appropriate to the building’s former life.
Our double room is compact, in a colonial style, with tapestries and a marble clad bathroom.
From the side of the building, there’s a spectacular view of rooftops and the lagoon, where we watch boats ranging in size from spume skimming water taxis and vaporettos, to the bovine wave ploughers that are the monolithic cruise ships.
Who knew it could be so relaxing to watch Venice’s equivalent of rush hour traffic go by? No wonder this city is otherwise known as Le Serenissima (the most serene). If these vistas aren’t enough to thoroughly chill you out, then visit the hotel’s spa, where there are all sorts of wacky sounding holistic therapies and a relaxation room that looks out to the canal.
Sadly, we weren’t in the market for a treatment, but if we had been, it would have been a toss up between the Sea Malay (for women only, dedicated to feminine energy, with practices of ancient symbology and shamanistic music, which reminded me of when Eddy in Absolutely Fabulous went through her New Age phase). Or there’s the slightly more conventional Ritual of Dreams for couples – a Turkish bath, followed by scalp massage with mint and aloe balm; a foot massage with goat’s milk mousse and a white tranquillity bath.
I’m not sure if reading the descriptions of beauty treatments is supposed to make you hungry, but these certainly did. The menu at their ground floor restaurant, L’Ulvivo (The Olive Tree) features “organic ingredients with sea flavours” and reads in a similarly evocative fashion to the spa list. There’s fillet of sea bream rolled in an olive crust, or fried fish and vegetables from the lagoon, with figs and Bavarian cream for pudding.
In the warmer months, breakfast is served in the courtyard, but we ate prima colazione in the grand dining room, where there’s a huge Renaissance style oil painting that contrasts with the modernity of Kartell’s transparent Louis Ghost chairs.
The buffet style breakfast is an excuse for extreme naughtiness, especially as it features a selection of Austrian-influenced cakey treats that are famous in Venice. After scoffing Bircher muesli, then smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, I found myself with a giant triangle of jammy fruit tart topped by a thick lattice of pastry. I wasn’t going to miss out this time.
After all, if the bellini incident was going to teach me anything, it was, when at the Bauers Palladio, do as the Venetians do.
• Jet2.com (www.jet2.com) flies from Edinburgh to Venice from £42 one way, including a 22kg baggage allowance. For flight and hotel packages visit www.jet2citybreaks.com. Rooms at the Bauers Palladio Hotel & Spa (Giudecca) start from €500/around £360 per night, tel: 0039 041 520 7022 or see www.palladiohotelspa.com