Condé Nast Johansens X Sartorialee: Live like a Doge in Venice
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in a sumptuous palazzo within the aptly-christened Most Serene Republic of Venice during the 15th- century, then stay at Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Set on the city’s highly decorated Grand Canal, it will gracefully fulfil any such ambition and allow you to indulge your inner doge.
It may be five centuries on since its initial inception but Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is one of the best preserved palazzos in a city positively awash with them. ‘Ca’ is a derivative of the Italian term ‘Casa’ but Venetian dialect for Palazzo. ‘Sagredo’ references the property’s former aristocratic owners and it was all sympathetically renovated into a hotel in 2007, ably recapturing the 15th-century ambience it set out to achieve.
I happened to be in town last weekend on a spring break with my wife and two children, which provided the perfect opportunity for a through the keyhole appetizer of this prestigious property. It also happens to be one of the most talked about hotels in the world since Italian sculptor Lorenzo Quinn bestowed his monumental Support in Venice installation on the exterior of the property to coincide with the Venice Biennale last year.
A pair of nine-metre tall hands, modelled on those of Quinn’s 11-year-old son Anthony, rise up out of the Grand Canal and appear to cling to the palazzo’s salmon pink exterior, as if to prop it up. At the same time, this piece of evocative public art raises awareness of the fragility of a building in a city that’s no stranger to flooding – and one that climate change experts warn is slowly sinking. The hands have already become so intrinsically embedded in the hotel’s psyche that it’s difficult to imagine life without them. After all, they still grasp hold of the Byzantine-Gothic exterior some five months after they were due to be unattached. One can only imagine future visitors remarking ‘but where are the hands?’
The jet-set way to arrive at Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is of course by private water taxi - one of those timeless mahogany topsided vessels with cream leather-upholstery – to utilise the hotel’s own private landing space. For those on foot, it’s a mere 10-minute stroll from Rialto, criss-crossing a couple of bridges that transport you to the sestiere of Cannaregio, affording the opportunity to peruse (luggage permitting of course) the many shops and stalls that line the Strada Nova before bearing left on Campo Santa Sofia and on to Ca’ Sagredo’s inconspicuous entrance.
The hotel’s unequivocally Italian restaurant, L’Alcova, features immediately to your left. It’s a haven of old world elegance. London’s San Lorenzo restaurant springs to mind: light and airy; discreet wall lighting; intricate rugs atop red and white marble chequered floors; simple round tables disguised with magnolia-coloured linen; walnut trimmings encapsulating everything from door frames to antique views of Venice; venerable gilt mirrors and Venetian-embellished furniture complete the picture.
An absolute must for all budding foodies is the chance to join one of Head Chef Damiano Bassano’s cooking classes. The ex-El Bulli alumni escorts you on a dawn escapade to Rialto market just cross the canal to hand-pick the freshest ingredients for you to prepare a Venetian feast on your return – one that you will go on to eat al fresco on L’Alcova’s serene terrace as a flotilla of gondalas and motoscafi wistfully sail by.
As you navigate the 18th-century Scalone dei Giganti staircase to the right of reception – flanked either side by angelic cherubs crafted out of marble by Francesco Bertos and breathtaking frescos by Longhi – you’re quite unaware of the sight that awaits you on the second flight: a grandiose chandelier-bedecked Portego. This covers the entirety of the first floor salon that looks out to the Grand Canal façade; a view that can just about be seen through the privacy-protecting frosted glass. The intensely dark and brooding walls depicting countryside scenes of yesteryear, merely intensify the rich hues of an exquisite Murano glass centrepiece.
All of the 42 elegant rooms are furnished in classic Venetian style complete with period furnishings. Rooms gaze out across the terracotta rooftops, the hotel’s inner courtyard or Campo Santa Sofia. Of particular note are:
The Grand Canal Panoramic Suite
Set on the Noble Floor of the Palazzo, The Grand Canal Panoramic Suite offers up a 220m2 harmony of soft reds fringed with luminous brushed gold embellishments across two adjoining bedrooms. From the moment you set foot in the room, you’re bewitched by a harmonious air that simply exudes romanticism. As the name of the suite suggests, the views of the Grand Canal and all that sail on her, will linger long after you’ve bid farewell.
The Library Suite
While significantly smaller than The Grand Canal Panoramic Suite, measuring in at 55m2, the enchanting Library Suite dates back to 1720 and simply oozes history. It was once home to Zaccaria Sagredo’s vast collection of over 10,000 voluminous tomes and paintings. Contained across two floors, separated by an upstairs balcony (no longer accessible), many remain to this day, covering the walls that encircle the sumptuous king-size bed from floor-to-ceiling. Its innate decadence has inspired many a memoir, and quite simply, is a literary writer’s heaven.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel, Campo Santa Sofia 4198/99, Ca’ D’Oro 30121, Venice.
EAT: Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti is a chic, contemporary wine bar in the Dorsoduro quarter. Serving fabulous wines by the glass and innovative Venetian cuisine.
Fondamenta Toletta, 1169/ABC, 30123 Venice
DRINK: an aperol spritz amid the old world spendour of Antico Martini in the shadow of the Venice opera house.
Campo Teatro Fenice, 2007, 30124 Venice
DO: escape the crowds and take a trip out to the island of Burano(Vaporetto line 12 from Fondamente Nove in Cannaregio) with its eye-popping coloured houses and laid-back charm.
WHAT TO WEAR
I try to plan my outfits in advance, depending on the amount of meetings and travelling I’ll be doing. I always err on the smarter side; better to be overdressed than underdressed. I intersperse smarter items like a patch pocket blazer, grey flannel trousers and brown suede split-toe Derby shoes with more casual pieces such as tailored jeans, chambray shirts and premium leather sneakers. I’m rarely seen without a scarf. They’re a great way of adding a pop of colour to my predominantly blue/grey wardrobe. Failing that, a cashmere sweater draped across my shoulders.
– Brunello Cucinelli, Blue Slim-Fit Linen Blazer, £1,960
– Massimo Alba, Slim-Fit Cotton-Corduroy Trousers, £185
– Caruso, Cashmere And Silk-Blend Sweater, £520
– Loro Piana, Cotton-Chambray Shirt, £370
– Common Projects, Original Achilles Leather Sneakers, £315
– Etro, Printed Linen And Silk-Blend Scarf, £180
All available from mrporter.com
*This article was first published on condenastjohansens.com
Lee Osborne spent 10 years working on luxury travel and lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveller where he was Creative Director before establishing his own luxury content studio, Osborne Creative. A frequent traveller, he is founding editor of men’s style blog Sartorialee: dressing the globe-trotting man