You have to walk past the local Communist party office to get to the secluded entrance of the Palazzo Abadessa. It’s an incongruous introduction to the hotel, as you couldn’t get two more different worlds: push open the palazzo’s gate and you walk straight into a treasure that’s both wonderfully grand and hidden away even by Venetian standards.
Behind the high walls lies a lush, semi-tropical garden (a riot of colours in summer), with tall, shady palm trees; al fresco breakfasts can be taken there, as can sunset aperitivos or just lazy afternoon siestas. The lobby is gorgeous, with its soaring ceiling decorated with frescoed wooden beams, a magnificent marble double staircase (the only one in the whole of Venice), and a private jetty opening up onto the Rio di Santa Sofia canal. On the first floor – the piano nobile of the 15th-century palazzo, where the nobility used to receive and entertain guests – an amazing cast-iron chandelier dominates the space, and the windows look right out over the garden.
The rooms are stunning from top to bottom, with their high, sometimes frescoed ceilings, decorative tiled floors and smattering of antiques. On arrival you find a chilled bottle of Prosecco waiting in your room – a very welcome treat for every guest on check-in.
Aside from the grand historical premises, though, what really makes Palazzo Abadessa so special is its sense of intimacy. A privately-owned residence, guests are made to feel like long-lost friends by the ebullient owner, Maria Luisa Rossi, who treats her palace rather like an opera diva does the stage.
- The feeling of living in your own private palace
- The grandeur of everything
- The private jetty at the back of the palace – perfect for setting off on a gondola ride or picking up a water taxi to whisk you off to the airport
- The flamboyant owner, Maria Luisa
- It’s really more of a home-from-home, so it’s not the place to come for slick, five-star service
Need to Know: Palazzo Abadessa
Number of rooms: 15
Check-in/check-out times: 2pm and 12noon
Room service: Yes
Swimming pool: No
Dogs welcome: Yes. If small
Eating and drinking: There’s no restaurant, although you can order plates of tasty prosciutto, salami and local cheeses with a drink in the small bar. Drinks at the Abadessa are all about sitting out in their lush private garden and trying the house cocktail, Cocktail dell’Abadessa, a delicious mix of peach vodka, tropical fruit juice and sparkling Prosecco.
Near to? The hotel is close to the Ca’ d’Oro museum, one of the most striking palaces on the Grand Canal, and a quick traghetto ride straight to the Rialto fish market. The Casino is within easy walking distance, if you want to try your hand at roulette and blackjack, while La Vedova, the most beautiful osteria in Venice, is also nearby.
Getting there: It’s around 20 minutes by bus from Marco Polo airport to Piazzale Roma, then 25 minutes by vaporetto to the hotel.