Hotel Watch

First Look: Venice’s Violino d’Oro

The Violino d’Oro, opened in Venice in November 2023, has three entrances, each representative of a different side of the La Serenissima, in which this exciting new boutique hotel makes its home. There’s the glass-paneled door in midst of the bustle off Calle Larga XXII Marzo, a main gondola hub right out front and foot-traffic pulling visitors toward San Marco. There’s the entrance for a watery arrival off Rio di San Moise that leads straight into a stylish salotto, full of red velvets and mosaic-studded floors. And there’s the slender door that opens onto a square out back, one of those unexpectedly hushed Venetian spaces in which the city allows you to catch your breath.

The different entrances are not entirely by design (Violino d’Oro comprises three historic buildings that interconnect), but in many ways they embody the belief of the owners that Venice has always been a multifaced beauty, a city approachable in a number of ways, a melting pot of ideas and angles. This philosophy powers the vision here, showing up across the property, from unexpected design details to chef Stefano Santo’s creative cuisine.

The Violino d’Oro is the latest passion project in Collezione Em, the small-but-growing Italian hotel brand powered by a Florentine family, in particular Sara Maestrelli and her aunt, Elena. The family has a long history in hospitality and in art, as evidenced across the portfolio, which also includes which also includes the Grand Hotel Minerva in Florence’s Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, the Brunelleschi Hotel right behind the Duomo in Florence, and Villa Roma Imperiale in Forte dei Marmi (with a second opening in Forte dei Marmi, Pensione America, at the end of 2024).

Elena and Sara had long dreamed of a hotel project in Venice, a city Sara describes as a place of wanderers and a logical extension of the brand’s other destinations. “We want to create homes in places we love and are deeply connected to,” she says. “Venice, like Florence, is a small city that fills your heart with art and beauty, and your tummy with some of the best food and wine in the country.”

The Violino d’Oro had an earlier life as a place to stay – its name references the original clientele, i.e. visitors of the nearby La Fenice opera house. But after a multi-year-long renovation, the three interconnected, 17th- century palazzi have emerged as a jewel of a boutique hotel that feels like a private home and also, a showcase for Italian art and craftsmanship.

There are the expected names: sumptuous Rubelli fabrics, glowing Venini chandeliers and custom Ginori ceramics. But Sara and Elena also selected the works of more contemporary tastemakers, including wall paintings by Tuscany-based artist Assia Pallavicino, sleek coffee tables in brushed brass designed by Giorgio Cattelan, and handmade stucco by the immensely creative team of forme in arte, who envisioned a veritable fairy forest for the walls of Il Piccolo restaurant.

A lobby lounge encompasses check-in, a slender bar and chic sitting areas with low couches and bookcases with splashy titles on Venice, art and Italian culture. A second salotto feels even more like the sumptuous home of an art lover, with dark-red velvet chaises and gorgeous terrazzo floors – so unmistakably Venetian, like confetti was gently tossed and then scattered by long gowns en route to Carnevale. (The latter are courtesy of the Asin brothers, of one of the oldest and most revered crafts families in Venice still laying this kind of flooring by hand.)

Everything at Violino d’Oro feels intimate and personal – this is not the hotel for travelers looking to slip in and out of an anonymous lobby unseen – and thanks to the fact that these are three interconnected buildings, the 32 rooms and suites are all unique in layout (suffice it to say, there are seven room categories). Uncluttered and sleek, the rooms are exceedingly comfortable, with king-sized beds, walk-in closets and bathrooms with rain-showers (some also have freestanding bathtubs) and Ortigia beauty products. In most rooms, the high ceilings add a heightened sense of space, and some come with internal terraces or narrow balconies facing the Rio di San Moise (there are no Grand Canal views). A color scheme heavy on gold and ecru gives the brain of an overstimulated Venice traveler a place to rest — overall, the Violino d’Oro is a tastefully designed enclave in which withdraw and recharge from Venice’s often overwhelming, oversaturated impressions.

The young and plugged-in team here can help with recommendations that take guests off the beaten path, and are also happy to reserve at recommended spas or a gym (neither of which the Violino d’Oro has in-house). Some of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants are within easy walking distance, but guests should also make a reservation for diner at Piccolo restaurant, helmed by chef Stefano Santo, who hails from Tuscany but who has a passion for Venetian cuisine as well as for sustainability, a concept critically important in a city where every last ingredient arrives via boat.

In design, philosophy and myriad details, the Violino d’Oro is a reinterpretation of Venice — richly artful, stylish and personal. For Venice connoisseurs who have done the “see-and-be-seen” and the Grand Canal view, this marvel is not to be missed.

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