Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Palazzo Cristo

Italy

The finest private palazzo apartments in Venice

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Palazzo Cristo
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Palazzo Cristo

Location

Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, close to St Mark's Square, Venice, Italy

Travel Information

15 minutes by water taxi from Marco Polo airport

Top Tips

Enjoy a stay here all year round due to its fabulous location. Take shoes designed for comfort and wandering. Don’t set your alarm clock, the beds are heavenly...

5-Star X-Factors

Exceptional attention to style detail. Wonderfully authentic yet central location. Blissfully private, peaceful and romantic.

Palazzo Cristo

Luxury travel is evolving, especially when it comes to ‘how to spend it’. This spend is now as much about the type of accommodation as the size of your wallet. The rise of luxury self-catered apartments, providing homely comfort as well as finely tuned luxury, are now serious alternatives to 5-star city hotels. Palazzo Cristo in Venice, a sparkling example of self-catered luxury living, may not offer room service, a spa, or restaurants in-house, but provides many other reasons for making this a most compelling proposition.

The enchanting location

Many 5-star luxury hotels and palazzo hotels in the city enjoy spectacular views and coveted locations but few have the unique pleasure of feeling more Venetian than touristic.  Along with the serene, refined, exquisitely curated elegance of Palazzo Cristo, there is a strong sense of belonging, both within your palazzo, as well as to the culture beyond your shutters.

We arrived by water taxi from Marco Polo Airport, via the Grand Canal and along a quaint side canal, alighting beside a beautiful square. Stepping onto the weathered stones of Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo felt unexpectedly novel.

Had I walked around here on my previous visits? Where were the tourists? This is a magnificent square, also known as ‘Campo delle Meraviglie’ (square of marvels), dominated by the impressive Gothic church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, famous for its quantity of tombs which reveal a complete understanding of the sculptures of Venice. Nearby, marble ornaments decorate the Renaissance building of the old Scuola Grande di San Marco, now a civic hospital. A large equestrian monument by Andrea Del Verrocchio, raised 4-meters high on a marble plinth, featuring a captain on a bronze horse, stands proud facing the waterway.

A few meters into the square, where students and school children were hurrying to their next class, their parents, or chasing seagulls, we entered passed through an unassuming archway before arriving at the front door of Palazzo Cristo, our home for three days. The owners, Anna and Fred, were there to welcome us and within seconds we were consumed by the smooth serenity that sweeps with ease from hallway to apartment. Inspired by the Zattere promenade in Venice, the floors of the entrance lobby, kitchens and sitting rooms, have been laid with Nero Marquina and Venetian white marble, blending harmoniously with the brushed oak parquet flooring from Slovenia. God is in the details here.

The vision

The talented owners are a dream design duo from Venice and Paris, and share their passions for interior design and contemporary living in spectacular harmony. Their likeminded aesthetic appreciation ensured they found the right building and importantly, in the right location: a stroll from Piazza San Marco, yet culturally local and off-piste.

The building, which was originally part of the Grimani dynasty, dates back to the 16th century.  Its history followed a remarkable course from being the Embassy of the Brescia Republic, to housing the consulate of Argentina. Its last inhabitant was a lone priest, who left the building over 70 years ago, so by the time Anna and Fred bought the property it was unloved, untouched and uninhabitable.

For two years they drove their enigmatic vision to its stunning realisation and, today, the amber-hued terracotta building provides 3 luxuriant apartments in true 5-star self-catering style. Retaining and restoring many original features, such as the beams, the façade, the windows and stairwells, the sympathetic transformation has been undertaken sourcing the finest materials for both the hard and soft furnishings, while the cream dominant palette throughout creates a tranquil, sophisticated aura.

I am always brimming with anticipation before I enter ‘my’ suite or apartment for the first time and when seeing trumps expectation, it is, quite simply, thrilling. I stayed in one-bedroomed suite number 3, on the third floor, with views across the square. Venice captivates our minds and imagination with its magical delivery of light and reflection, and the apartments appear to mirror this alluring idiosyncrasy. The bespoke sandblasted oak-framed mirrors are designed by Anna & Fred and made by Saint Gobain using the ‘Mira star’ effect. The appealing lighting, also self-designed, complements the reflections, the rooms and, dare I say it… your very self!

Technology is discreetly hidden within the mirrors, walls and bedside tables; even the television is hidden behind a large mirror facing your immaculate bed. I had a deeply comfortable freestanding Devon & Devon bath, made from marble composite with a silky butter-soft finish. The large travertine marble shower went un-used; the bath was simply too inviting.

Suite slumber

My four-poster, hand-made in similar wood to the framed mirrors, was dressed in Frette linen, along with the towels and gowns. It’s easy to close off your bedroom from the sitting room and bathroom by pulling-to the sliding doors, while I kept the windows ajar to enjoy the sounds of the square. Both mornings I opened my windows wider and leaned out to watch local life starting its day. The church bells rang, the seagulls cried out on the wing, and locals descended upon the oldest bakery in Venice, Rosa Salva. Locals queue patiently for their delicious biscuits and fritole (small fried doughnuts). After inhaling this enchanting scene, I strolled to my kitchen, complete with Miele and Smegg appliances, and plunged my own local brew. 

I swept my cream Rubelli satin curtains open and sat on one of the handmade linen sofas, made specifically for these apartments by Maxalto. Admiring the grand marble fireplace and listening to the local morning chorus, while the sun turned the square into a golden Canaletto masterpiece, I realised that if I had somewhere in Venice, I would want this. 

Outings in brief

The most important routes to the main buildings and museums are well signposted so anyone can get to Piazza San Marco, the Rialto, the Academia and the train station. However, it’s easy to feel lost in the maze of back streets and canals but this is actually part of Venice’s beguiling enigma. A small diversion can be so alluring that you end up being enticed along nameless alleyways before stepping out into brilliant sunshine into a forgotten square with a stunning palazzo, trees and that thankful bench that gives you time to simply admire and reflect.

The lanes and alleyways, the oft motionless canals with just a shaft of light falling at an angle, beckons your hand on the camera as much as any of the great sites. Getting lost here is a great way to appreciate the charm and culture of the city, a chance to smell local cooking wafting from an open window, to see the washing drying from lines strung along the steep sides of the charming buildings, to dip in and out of shops, piled high with masks, wigs, gowns, glassware, old maps, and so it continues. But, there is always a vaporetto stop or water taxi to return you to your desired destination or familiar landmark.

Our grand pit-stop

With time, you can visit the Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and Bridge of Sighs; have a coffee in Café Florrian and way, way more besides. We took a water taxi and admired Venice from the Grand Canal before arriving at one of the most exceptional 5-star palazzo hotels in Venice, if not Italy, the Papadopoli Palazzo, or the Aman Venice.

On my previous stay here, I felt that the food needed improving in order to compliment its glorious host, so this was, in a sense, a ‘recce’ to see if the kitchen was indeed firing up its act with Aman’s new global dining concept Arva. Inspired by seasonal and fresh market ingredients Arva aims to provide classic and refined Italian dishes of exceptional quality. It is truffle season and I couldn’t resist…this done well with tagliolini pasta is one of my all-time favourite dishes.

We started with fresh white crab meat - superbly delicate - with pickled radishes and a sauce made from the brown meat. It was divine. We followed with the chef’s suggestion, a pile of truffle on perfectly prepared homespun tagliolini. What made this experience almost surreal, magical even, was that we enjoyed these fine dishes at a table by the window at the far end of the glitteringly sensational Rococo and Neo-Renaissance Piano Nobile; it felt like a dreamy film set, and, we were the only people dining that sun-kissed lunchtime. After feeling like Marie Antoinette until my reflection in the glorious mirrors proved otherwise, we boarded a river taxi back to our warm, inviting, home from home.

A unique dining experience…

The idea of dining in a shopping mall has never been on my to-do-list. But, this is something entirely different, actually it has to be a novel experience and here’s why…

A short walk from Palazzo Cristo is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the former trade seat of the German merchants who were operating in Venice. After several rebuilds and various occupants, the company was bought by Benetton from the city of Venice. They commissioned Rem Koolhaas to convert it into the outstanding LVMH duty free shopping centre it is today.  AMO, the dining concept belonging to The Alajmo family, owners of Ristorante Quadri in Piazza San Marco, takes centre stage here.

We arrived on a crisp November evening, to gorgeous twinkling lights on four Christmas trees placed around the central atrium of this spectacular building. Feeling more like a vast riad in Morocco than a duty-free shopping mall, the lighting dimmed and AMO sprung into cocktail and culinary life. During the day AMO is alive with tourists taking a shopping break, and now it was transformed into an scintillating restaurant, that felt wondrously elegant and exclusive. A little like dining in, perhaps, the grand hall at the Natural History Museum in London.

Our night started at the superbly lit marble bar for a signature martini; so smooth, it really was as ‘perfect as the sonnet’. As a larger table than most, we enjoyed sharing several dishes, all exceptional and all exquisitely presented. The hand chopped raw beef with white truffle tiramisu was exceptional, so, too, the fried soft-shell crab with artichokes, and the AMO Calzone oozed with mozzarella and anchovy delight. The service was world class, making the whole experience not only memorable but certainly one to revisit next time we are in Venice (while staying in a cosseting apartment in Palazzo Cristo).

Accomodation options at Palazzo Cristo

Suite 1 is a three-bedroom apartment with a private garden
Suite 2 is a one-bedroom apartment
Suite 3 is a one bedroom apartment

A further two-bedroom apartment will be available for 2020.

Staying at Palazzo Cristo starts at €450 per night in a one-bedroom suite with a minimum stay of two nights. This includes a golden card voucher to enjoy a cocktail on Anna and Fred at AMO.

Airport transfers in a water taxi can be arranged for €120 each way.

 

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer