There is another like an island getaway, and some say there is nothing like a Venice escape. But the beautiful Serenissima is not quite a respite, especially once the weather warms up. But what if it was? A few weeks ago, I was invited by Kempinski hotels to come to visit the newly opened and renovated San Clemente Palace, a luxury hotel in a small island across from San Marco and the Giudecca that entices you to best of both worlds- the meandering charm of Venice and the quietude of an island . (You may remember that I wrote about the San Clemente Palace last year in Forbes Travel round-up of the new/updated St. Regis-Starwood line up- Yes, same space, same place but new owner with some great surprises).
My weekend was perfect. The sky was constantly painted by Titian, the water never made up its jewel-toned mind, and the temperature was warm to a balmy chill at night. And the hotel…. it was fabulous. Or maybe I just like history with a luxe decor? San Clemente was a crusader stop over, a monastery, a hospital and sanitarium (famously, Mussolini’s first wife had a Zelda Fitzgerald finish here), and now 190 room hotel, most of which opt for that Baroque-inspired finery we’ve come to expect of Venice- Venetian plaster, carved wooden headboards, velvet covered furniture, gilded mirrors and opulent drapery with incredibly large tassels. My Junior Suite was just that, with the most comfortable bed in the world, a beautiful view of the lagoon and San Marco, and a large marble bathroom stocked with Acqua di Parma products and a very, very good hair dryer. Yep, I was in heaven until I walked through the San Clemente Suite, a stand-alone top floor apartment which is probably the love child of Poltrona Frau and SanLorenzo Super Yachts dancing in my seaside fantasies: exposed wood beam ceilings, gorgeous contemporary Italian furniture in leathers and velvets, floor to ceiling windows with a front row view of the Venetian Lagoon, and did I mention private dock? Consider it a 10, 000 euro sunrise… San Clemente Suite.
Let’s round it up: San Clemente Palace is a time piece. Its long hallways and a vintage bar are reminiscent of a favorite Kubrick film. San Clemente is a compound. You could quite possibly stay here without visiting Venice because it has *almost* everything- three restaurants, under chef Vincenzo di Tuoro, three bars under superbarman Alessio Venturini, (note: try his White Lady, my new cocktail), pool, putting holes, tennis courts, park benches and enough grounds that I lapped the site 3 times for my morning run – admittedly, I stopped a few times just to take in fresh air. But even Kempinski knows you need to get lost, so if offers guests complimentary water taxi service to and from San Marco each half hour. [For a walk around San Clemente Palace, please flip around my Steller Story].
What didn’t I like? More like, what would I like to see next? I’d love to see the herb garden they are talking about cultivating, with chef’s tabl dining. In fact, I’d like to see how Chef di Tuoro evolves the restaurants. The pool is beautiful- but will Kempinski expand to more spa services and perhaps enhance the on site gym? And that’s it.
My two days in Venice were just what I needed to clear my head from Rome. I made sure to cross over to Venice for some cicchetti and art. I stumbled across the Joseph Klibansky Beautiful Tomorrow exhibition at Palazzo Franchetti- humorous and beautiful, best combination– and then went to the Pinnault Foundation double header opening of Sigmar Polke (Palazzo Grassi) and Acchrochage (Punta della Dogana). By the time you read, Klibansky will have ended but you should plan to catch Polke, an excellent retrospective of the German artist who had far more fun than Andy Warhol. But yes, I was lazy and stayed on the island- participating in a master cooking class with di Tuoro, where we talked gnocchi, and then met up with Alessio at the Clemente Bar for another White Lady. My kind of weekend in Venice.