Monday, June 27, 2011

Chic Insider Travel: Venice Now

Secrets of La Serenissima, plus exclusive information and images of Villa F, the ultra-private long-stay residence hotel launched earlier this month by Francesca Bortolotto Possati. Exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE. 

The brilliant Venice hotelier Francesca Bortolotto Possati is admired as a key figure in the Venetian luxury hospitality, philanthropy, architecture, fine restoration, and arts worlds.

She owns and directs the Bauer hotel properties (the only privately owned super-luxe five-stars) including Il Palazzo on the Grand Canal where I often stay, as well as L'Hotel, and the new Palladio Hotel and Spa on Giudecca.

I first met Francesca in 1997 when she was launching the elegant new Il Palazzo, and at the same time re-inventing the grand old Bauer hotel. I always maKe a point of seeing her and catching up whenever I've been in Venice. I've had the pleasure of visiting her Palazzo Mocenigo on the Grand Canal, and witnessed the debut of her latest ambitious projects. She's a visionary and a dynamo.

Now, the chicissima Francesca has just opened the divine Villa F, with long-stay apartments in Giudecca.

For a honeymoon couple, for extended families, or for travelers who want to settle in for a month (or a year), this is a great discovery. It’s an instant style-setter and the ultimate romantic hideaway, with a private garden, swimming pool (one of only two hotel pools in Venice), and the most glorious rooms, with views of San Marco and the lagoon. Oh, the romantic possibilities. 

Villa F was named for Francesca, who spent five years on this restoration of an historic series of handsome buildings.

Note: At the end of this text, see Francesca’s fabulous insider tips on ‘my favorite things to do in Venice all year’.

From Villa F, guests can follow in the romantic steps of John Singer Sargent and Henry James, explore palazzi, peer into secret gardens and porticos, and live the fantasy and privacy that Venice so indulgently offers. 

Villa F
Villa F features eleven residences (luxury villa-like accommodations). Several of the ‘villas’ can be connected to make them even more accommodating for families, groups of friends.

Villa F is set up for long stay residences, and guests can book for four days or longer. 

Situated on Giudecca island, it is a five-minute boat ride across the Grand Canal from the Bauer Il Palazzo and Piazza San Marco.

The Giudecca, once considered the ‘orchard’ of Venice, was historically the summer country escape for grand Venetians. Best, it's delightfully serene and tranquil, an escape, a place apart, but with up-close views of San Giorgio, the Punta della Dogana, and San Marco's Campanile. Today, it is still rather a secret and is sometimes referred to as the SoHo of the Lagoon by the bon vivant crowd who appreciate the calm refuge. It provides a lovely escape from the bustle of the Venetian swirl. 

‘The way to enjoy Venice is to follow the example of Venetians and make the most of simple pleasures. Almost all of the pleasures of Venice are simple: walking to an historic church to look at a fine Titian, or wandering to another church to look at a dramatic Tintoretto. It is of such pastimes that a Venetian day can be composed.”—Henry James, On Italy. 

Each residence features living room spaces and kitchens that provide guests with a home away from home and allow them to experience Venice as a true Venetian.

Highlights of the property include a glass-enclosed atrium and winter garden, a romantic outdoor garden patio, and a swimming pool, a rarity in Venice. (It is said that the only other swimming pool is the one at the neighboring Cipriani.)
“Venice is instinct with soft seductive textiles, like the silks that Wagner hung in his bedrooms—the velvets, taffetas, damasks and satins that her merchants brought home from the East, in the days when all ravishing delicacies of the Orient passed this way in a cloud of spice”—Jan Morris, Venice (Faber and Faber, 1960). 

“I’ve been visiting Venice for fifteen years to buy Venini and Barovier & Toso glass as well as rare ethnic jewelry, and on every visit I find an exciting new glass designer, a great source for antiques, a dazzling art gallery. Every square and lane offers a new discovery, a new design surprise. I dine late with Venetian friends at hard-to-find restaurants and enjoy the freshest seafood and salads and regional wines. I walk from campo to campo at night, go gallery hopping, or take the vaporetto along the Grand Canal as the sun is setting. Nowhere is more beautiful.”—Federico de Vera, owner of de Vera galleries in New York. 

Villa F Features 

Three-acre private garden, the largest in Venice

Outdoor meditation pool

Reading room & wine bar with working fireplaces

Winter garden lobby with open views of the city and garden

Original wall frescoes

Pure linen and silk fabrics by Rubelli, Donghia and Jesurum

Oversized tubs

Spacious closets

AC; complimentary WiFi; iPod docking station; satellite TV; DVD/CD player; movie library

Private Concierge service

Laundry service

Butler service and shuttle service available

From $950 for an elegant studio apartment overlooking the garden. 

“The view from my windows is una bellezza; the far-shining lagoon, the pink walls of San Giorgio, the downward curve of the Riva, the movement of the quay, the gondolas in profile"—Henry James, in a letter to a friend, 1901. 

Working on a Project and Research to Venice: My favorites 

I’ll be heading to Venice this summer to conduct research. I will also immerse myself in the Biennale art presentations and concerts, and will meet talented artists, musicians, and the fine traditional craftspeople that bring Venice alive.

I’ll drop in to Codognato, the fabulous jewelry treasure chest, to chat to Attilio Codognato, and to view antique gold rings with carnelian stones, and try on snake bracelets encrusted with diamonds, and chunky Deco rings sparkling with diamonds and sapphires.

I’ll take a traghetto over to the Longhi bar at the Hotel Gritti Palace in the early evening to meet friends and sip on the bar's famous Bellinis, the best in Venice. Fresh white peach juice!

Later, I’ll gather a friend and find a table beside a piazza column (never out in the open square) to listen to hauntingly romantic Carlos Gardel tangos whipped to a frenzy by the Caffe Florian orchestra.

I will score a private visit to the Barovier & Toso glass museum, nibble on crisp sardines at chic Da Fiore, and stroll in the secret vineyard at the Cipriani. An essential stop: the shockingly beautiful gilded chapel of San Zaccaria, and later Francesco Guardi’s charming 1752 painting of San Zaccaria nunnery at Ca’ Rezzonico.

I’ll go in search of Bevilacqua’s extraordinary tiger pattern silk velvets and sumptuous brocades, still woven by hand on centuries-old wooden looms. Ann Getty is a fan of Bevilacqua’s theatrical velvets in baroque patterns in colors like eggplant, verdigris, crimson and cerulean. A must.

As darkness falls I will find a table at the Danieli roof terrace and watch the reflections of San Marco and Castello flicker across the water. On the menu: sweet spider crabs from the lagoon and bitter salad made from arugula and endive from nearby Treviso.

Henry James wrote to a friend in 1872, “The simplest thing to tell you of Venice is that I adore it—have fallen deeply and desperately in love with it. I have drunk deep and the magic potion has entered into my blood.”

I’m in love. I can’t wait to arrive. 

Francesca’s Favorites

Inside Scoop from Francesca Bortolotto, owner/president of the Bauer properties in Venice. 

-- Take the vaporetto line LN from Fondamenta Nuove to Burano. After a one-hour ride you reach Burano and have lunch at Gatto Nero restaurant (041-730-120).

--From March to October take a boat (ask your concierge) and cruise, departing from Venice, along the Brenta Canal to Padua. With At the first blossoming of wisteria in the spring, noble Venetians of old went up the Brenta canal to their summer residences. The Gradenigo, Pisani, Widmann and Rezzonico families dressed up their country dwellings on the Brenta Riviera as if they were palaces on the Grand Canal, exploding into grandeur. The villas on the Brenta Riviera represent the splendour of the Most Serene Republic. My favourites are Villa Foscari (La Malcontenta) on the right bank (ph 041-547-0012). The owner is a great friend of mine. Make an appointment and you might be lucky to meet them at the villa and have a cup of tea with them. Villa Pisani, Strà, left bank, (041-502-074). You get a fine view of the Villa Pisani at the entrance to Strà. Particularly worthy of note is a ceiling, by the great Venetian artist, Giambattista Tiepolo.

-- Lunch at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Ca' Venier dei Leoni, San Gregorio, Dorsoduro (041-27-71303). Milionairess Peggy Guggenheim bought the property, made it her home and opened an art gallery there. Today, the Guggenheim Foundation houses one of the finest collections of 20th-century art in the world.

--Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church, recently restored by Save Venice Foundation. I am extremely proud to be one of the Board of Directors. Built between 1481 and 1489 by Pietro Lombardo and recently restored to its former glory, Santa Maria dei Miracoli is one of the hidden gems of Venetian Renaissance architecture. This jewel box of a church, with its multi-hued marble facade, is squeezed on the narrow edge of a canal.

--At least once a year I visit the Convento S. Francesco del Deserto ( 041-528 68 63) on Torcello. It’s one of the most important Franciscan convents on one of the most beautiful lagoon islands. Magnificent garden with age-old trees. Lunch there, and perhaps make a reservation to sleep in the convent cells.

--Fondazione Giorgio Cini: visit the incredible library Biblioteca del Monastero Benedettini, a must visit destination.

--Bevilacqua. The famous and oldest tapestry and silk velvet house. Arrange a visit with Mario Bevilacqua to see the original 17th century treadle looms still in use in their workroom, used to make the most exclusive and elaborate fabrics. For an appointment contact the showroom in Campo Santa Maria del Giglio ph 041-241.0662

-- Visit the museum of 18th Century Venice, Ca' Rezzonico (Dorsoduro 3136 (041- 241-0100) on Tuesday nights after 8pm when the palazzo is lit by candles.

-- A must visit on Saturday morning is the fish and vegetable market at the Rialto Bridge where I do my own shopping and have the best Venetian lunch at the trendy osteria Banco Giro ph 041-5232 06. Venetians meet there at around 1 o’clock where they enjoy the fresh catch on big wooden table.

-- Archivio di Stato, adjacent top the Church of Santa Maria dei Frari (San Polo 3002 ph 041 5222 281) recently reopened the splendid Chiostro della Trinità with the monumental Vera da Pozzo (Venice well) from the beginning of the 18th century by the sculptor Francesco Cabianca. Free. Guided visits from 11am to 12 noon.

--On any week day I like to go to Sacca Serenella in Murano island and walk to my favorite glass factory, Gianni Seguso ( 041-739005). He crafted elaborate sconces and chandeliers for Il Palazzo at the Bauer Hotel. I love to browse through historic designs and view their collection of glass samples.


Photography courtesy Villa F and Bauer Hotels. Published here with express permission.

For more information: and


shiree segerstrom said...

As always Diane, your posts are just fabulous. I watched The Tourist last night so this one was well timed. Shiree'

The Devoted Classicist said...

I would love to visit the Bevilacqua workshop! said...

Imagine having friends like this....
I would love to here Diane how you have such a wonderful and not by any means, average life...
I love blown glass....
Thank you for the tip on where to stay.. We always rent homes when we travel so that we can cook...


Unknown said...

Looks truely delighful.

Anonymous said...

Oh Diane!
You continue to outdo yourself!! Venice is my favorite city; and you have captured it better than anyone!

I went on two "Save Venice Foundation" trips....truly my favorite in my life!
The foundation published a paperback large book of a "treasure hunt" through the city...I have lent it to friends who loved following it! I don't know if it is still available!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Loved hearing from you.
Francesca Possati is a rare person--she runs hotels and directs superb restorations in Venice and yet she is very low-key and down-to-earth and lovely.
My favorite way to do Venice: stay on Giudecca, the island across the water from the Doge's Palace (a 4 minute boat ride)...but private, ultra quiet.
I stayed at the Palladio Hotel...a restored former monastery...and loved waking up there, opening windows overlooking the garden to silence and peace and sunshine.It's also near San Giorgio Maggiore...another favorite island, no tourists at all.
Penny, you are right. Save Venice is a fantastic organization, so generous, and they are responsible for major and important restorations of churches, art, museums, palazzi, and specific paintings. I see their trail everywhere in Venice and have great admiration. I highly recommend the group--and their super-insider tours and access to the glories of Venice. Each year they unveil new philanthropical works.
I made a point of doing my own 'private Venice' and thus encountered wonderful Venetians, hidden restaurants, the Prada foundation, and museums where I was often the sole visitor in galleries with more guards than art lovers. Perfect for me.
More to coming weeks.
cheers to all DIANE

Jamie Herzlinger said...

Fabulous post! I could travel the world on the way you write!
Kind regards
Jamie Herzlinger

Grant K. Gibson said...

Venice. Magic. I will always have THE BEST memories of times with dear, special friends. I can still taste the bellinis!


Treviso hotels said...

Chic really is the best word to describe the atmosphere of Venice.