In the 1950’s, Giuseppe Cipriani, having successfully launched both Harry’s Bar in Venice and Locanda Cipriani on the island of Torcello, undertook his most ambitious project. He purchased acreage on the island of Giudecca, directly across the canal from St. Mark’s Square, where he built the Hotel Cipriani. The name Cipriani has come to be associated with an unparalleled history of hospitality and cuisine of international acclaim. Now part of the Orient Express chain of luxury hotels, it still carries the family name, remaining faithful to the tradition of excellence that the Cipriani trademark represents.
There is a light drizzle when we arrive by the hotel’s private launch from across the canal by St. Mark’s, but as soon as it lets up, I wander through the hotel garden. The lawn smells freshly of the afternoon rain, perfumed by jasmine and aromatic herbs. Brilliant hydrangea, in every shade of pink and purple, are weighted down with moisture, dripping crystal tears on a green velvet lawn. A white stone maiden sits on the edge of a lily pond. A soft light falls across a patchwork of green in an herb garden that delights the eye and provides the hotel chef with an abundance of flavors – flavors we are about to relish for ourselves.
The inclement weather prohibits us from dining outdoors on the terrace of the Fortuny Restaurant, but indoor dining is not without its pleasures. From its elegant interior we have a pleasing view of the lagoon and of the little islet of San Giorgio Maggiore, crowned by Palladio’s magnificent church. Chef Renato Piccolotto’s recipes pay homage to the city of Venice, half land – half sea. With ingredients brought in daily from its waters or gathered from its fields, his is a cuisine that invites one to dine with the rhythm of the seasons.
The second evening of our stay, we stroll along Giudecca canal. We stop at Cip’s Club, where candlelit tables invite us to enjoy the lingering warmth of a setting sun. As I sip a Bellini and Mike a Prosecco, we gaze at a scene that seems more like a Canaletto painting, the water a deeper shade of the sky, perfectly framing St. Mark’s and the Doges Palace against a backdrop of cotton-candy clouds. The sounds of Venice create their unique melody – the slow hum of a tugboat, the muffled drone of distant boat motors, the toot-toot of boat horns and the lapping of waves against the dockside pavement. In the dazzle of this light, the facades and domes and bell towers simply glow. A silver white sun scatters a path of liquid diamonds across the lagoon. The bells of the nearby San Giorgio campanile chime rhythmically…
Our room overlooks the garden and the lagoon, but we hardly give these views any thought this evening. We succumb quickly to the plush comfort and serene colors of our room’s décor and to the silence that engulfs us, and dream of Venezia.
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