Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Living a Doge's Life in Venice

VENICE--If home is the Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore on the Grand Canal, it's like having a penthouse on Park Avenue or a villa in Tuscany. Can't beat the view, great for parties, but a lot of upkeep.

Roll back the clock 350 years or so, Francesco Loredan, the doge of Venice at the time, offers this palazzo rent-free to the newly named ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire, in exchange for what were termed "extensive renovations." (Hence its current name, Palazzo Loredan d'Ambasciatore.) The owner today is Filippo Gaggia, and he has found a lively business opportunity in renovating and renting out luxury lodgings throughout La Serenissima.

Salon on piano nobile.JPGGaggia's company, Views on Venice, offers more than 70 properties, from a studio to a piano nobile (the elegant "main floor" above the waterside entrance) to an entire palazzo. Luxury can be rented at the great hotels of Venice, of course (the Danieli, the Gritti Palace, the Bauer, the Europa,the Cipriani, and so on), many of which may have started out as private palazzi but have long since been overhauled  Gaggia's princely accommodations were not only designed for princes, the princes and their families are still living in the private family quarters of many of the palaces and renting out a few elegant salons. (That's a salon in Gaggia's own palazzo in the photo.)

There's no Trump Tower in Venice, no real estate on which a developer could build so much as a Motel 6, which explains the stratospheric prices of five-star hotel rooms as well as the glut of 3,000-passenger cruise ships that tie up at Tronchetto, just off the Piazzale Roma, and disgorge their budget-vacation daytrippers into the souvenir shops along the Rialto Bridge.

There's a certain advantage to the relative anonymity of a luxury hotel, just as there's an advantage to the privacy of a rented palazzo. It's not much of an issue if you can afford it: a suite at the Danielli with a view of the lagoon is $3,000 a night in high season. Even with a staff, the palazzo's not going to be as costly, and you get to bring your entire entourage.

Our introduction to the Palazzo Loredan was courtesy of Marco Giol, whose Private Luxury Accommodation Network recently hosted a workshop in Venice for international tour operators.

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