The recently opened Aman Canal Grande in Venice took 100 workers 18 months to transform the magnificent 16th century Palazzo Papadopoli into the most eye-wateringly luxurious resort on the Grand Canal.
Synonymous with romantic gondola rides, frenzied pigeon feeding at Piazza San Marco and the legendary Bellinis at Harry’s Bar, Venice is the playground of Europe. Straight out of a fairy tale, it is the same as it was six hundred years ago – with old brick houses lining narrow waterways that are connected by quaint bridges and rabbit-warren-like callis or streets. But the heartbeat of Venice is the iconic Grand Canal, the main thoroughfare that meanders through this lagoon city, where you can find the Aman standing resplendent on the banks of the historic San Polo Sestieri.
True to the resort’s founder Adrian Zecha’s vision of creating gracious ‘private residences’ in historical surroundings, the Palazzo Papadopoli which is home to the Aman consists of two five-storey buildings, one of which was built in the 16th century by the architect Gian Giacomo dé Grigi.
Count Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga, who still lives at the Palazzo with his family, started restoring the palace in 2005 with the help of Pietro Dottor of the Dottor Group. As part of the renovation process, great importance was placed on the use of local resources and traditions to ensure that they were consistent with the original materials used.
The Istrian stone in the main façade, the red and white square marble-tiled floor in the hallway, the chandeliers from Murano and even the upholstery and tapestry, all reflect this authenticity. Every bit of original furniture that was found in the building was painstakingly refurbished and then carefully replaced in its original location to preserve the legacy of the palace.
Guests first alight in the grand Reception Hall, replete with high ceilings, marble busts and home to one of the great treasures of the Palazzo – The Lepanto lantern, a ‘souvenir’ from the 1571 battle of Lepanto. A sweeping staircase then takes you two levels up to the Piano Nobile, the grandest floor of the palace, decorated by Michelangelo Guggenheim, a leading exponent of the Neo-Renaissance and Rococo styles.
The Piano Nobile or main living area comprises of three distinctive spaces – the Main Room, the Yellow Room and the Red Dining Room all overlooking the Grand Canal or the resort’s Garden Terrace. All the rooms have frescoes by Cesare Rotta but Guggenheim’s pièce de résistance is The Dining Room that was once the ballroom of the Palazzo, now elegantly chandeliered in the Arcadian style, surrounded by goddesses, cupids, musical instruments and masks.
On the resort’s fourth level a private elevator opens out to the library which is done up in an eclectic Neo-Baroque style with leather wallpaper from Cordoba in Spain made by shaping panels of wet leather over wooden moulds, painting and then oil-gilding and lacquering them.
The Aman Hotel offers a total of 24 suites, each with a unique layout planned and designed by Jean Michel Gathy and David Schoonbroodt from Denniston Architects. Though many rooms are adorned with ornate original frescos and reliefs reflecting the extravagance of the past, furnishings throughout the rooms are contemporary; seamlessly juxtaposing history and tradition with a modern aesthetic.
Each suite is different, quietly echoing a palatial opulence that whispers but doesn’t shout. History seems to permeate effortlessly through the rooms, like the silk wall coverings, high frescoed ceilings and magnificently chandeliered bathroom in The Maddalena Stanza or the original fireplace designed by Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino (Venice’s famous 16th century architect) in The Sansovino Stanza. Other rooms like The Alcove Tiepolo Suite have a Chinese painted sitting room and a bedroom ceiling done by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the great 18th century artist, while the Grand Canal Suite features a beautiful lounge under arched windows with dazzling views of the Grand Canal of course!
The resort has two gardens on either side of its property, the Garden Terrace that fronts the Grand Canal and the second hidden Private Garden with walking access to the San Polo district. But the Altana (found on most buildings, originally used to dry clothes) or rooftop terrace cantilevered above the city captures the essence of Venice as far as the eye can see.
The Aman in Venice is a marriage of architecture and über luxe. Whether you are dining al fresco in the terrace garden, pampering yourself in the exclusive spa or browsing the small boutique specialising in Venetian glassware (designed by the Count himself), the sheer privilege and provenance of the property is sure to enchant you.
Text Natalie Pedder-Bajaj
Photographs Copyrights Aman Resorts