Experience a taste of romance, luxury and tradition in the beautiful world of Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice

Vintage glamour and glitz from London to Venice

Vintage glamour and glitz from London to Venice

Having previously visited Venice by car and by ship, this year the arrival was the most magical. My partner Ken and I travelled in vintage luxury from Victoria Station London on the British Pullman and then in Calais Ville, we boarded the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express for our exuberantly romantic journey to Venice.

Champagne lady

Champagne lady

Marcel Proust apparently delayed going to Venice because for him cities were like women, and the best confined to his dreams. But when he arrived he was not disappointed and he described it lovingly and at length.

The surreal, dreamlike panorama of Venice

The surreal, dreamlike panorama of Venice

Writers, artists, actors, musicians have always been enticed like a magic spell to visit Venice. In no particular order, Balzac, Byron, Claude Monet, Somerset Maughan, Noel Coward, Peggy Guggenheim, Cole Porter,  Orson Welles, Maria Callas, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, …. George Clooney, Woody Allen.

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go” – Truman Capote

Giuseppe Cipriani outside Harry's Bar

Giuseppe Cipriani outside Harry’s Bar

It was the entrepreneurial vision of Guiseppe Cipriani (and a generous loan from Mr Harry Pickering), which launched the quirky, quintessential Harry’s Bar on May 13 1931 at Calle Vallaresso in 1931. Beloved by the artistic and literary elite of the day, sipping Bellinis (white peach puree & Prosecco),  and lunching on Beef Carpaccio, today the art deco bar remains one of the most famous watering holes in the world.

Hemingway would order a Montgomery. This very dry Dry Martini, (15 parts gin to 1 part dry Vermouth), is named after Field Marshal Montgomery who liked a 15 to 1 ratio of his troops to teh enemy  on the battlefield.  A typical lunch for Orson Welles was shrimp sandwiches, washed down with two bottles of Dom Perignon!

Giuseppe Cipriani

Giuseppe Cipriani who invented the Bellini

Its legendary enduring success was due to Cipriani’s philosophy: quality, a smile, and simplicity, to ensure genuine hospitality, fine food and drink. By the early 1950s it was time to develop more ambitious plans:

“In 1953 my father bought a piece of abandoned land next to a dilapidated workyard on the island of Giudecca. My father often went there. He stood among the wild undergrowth and looked out at the broad calm lagoon. He firmly believed it was a perfect spot for a hotel.”Arrigo Cipriani

Once again Giuseppe was assisted by a wealthy benefactor, Lord Iveagh (the owner of the Guinness brewery) and Hotel Cipriani opened its doors in 1958.

Belmond Hotel Cipriani

Belmond Hotel Cipriani

For those seeking peace and privacy of a romantic island retreat, the Cipriani became the address for VIPs, honeymooners and anyone in search of a taste of luxury.

Vintage image of Hotel Cipriani

Vintage image of Hotel Cipriani

In 1976 it was purchased by Orient-Express Hotels – and now renamed Belmond Hotel Cipriani  (the exciting rebranding of Orient-Express collection trains, cruises and hotels) –  preserving the high standard of gracious comfort and Venetian hospitality since the 1950s.

Courtesy Motor Launch take guests to Belmond Cipriani

Courtesy Motor Launch take guests to Belmond Cipriani

During our visit to Venice this summer, Ken and I took the opportunity to visit the legendary resort, taking the courtesy motor launch over to Giudecca. We arrive at 5pm, Aperitif time at the Gabbiano Bar, overlooking the swimming pool and surrounded by lush greenery and fragrant flowers.

Gabbiano Bar

Gabbiano Bar

The charming Head Barman, Walter Bolzonella is the star turn here – for 37 years he has been blending Bellinis and shaking Martinis with exemplary care. His ethos is Hospitality with heart. The Gabbiano is like his home, the guests, treated with the warm welcome of personal friends.

Walter Bolzonella, Head Barman

Walter Bolzonella, Head Barman

Lounging on our well cushioned Rattan sofa, we browse the Bar Menu with a mouthwatering choice – Watermelon Spritz, Hemingway Daiquiri, Cipri-Ami Martini, Ferrari Perle Fizz, Dom Perignon, wines, spirits, beers and dozens of signature Cocktails.

Gabbiano Bar Menu, illustrated by Lele Vianello

Gabbiano Bar Menu, illustrated by Lele Vianello

The Buona Notte was invented by Walter for George Clooney (a regular hotel guest), to celebrate his movie Good Night and Good Luck at the Venice Film Festival, 2005. On the night it was created, “100 people came to the bar to experience the new cocktail,” Bolzonella recalls, “It was a disaster!”.

Buonanotte cocktail

Buonanotte cocktail

This is the perfect choice for Ken: A cool refreshing concoction of cucumber, lime, fresh ginger, angostura bitter, vodka, cranberry with crushed ice, it’s like a sophisticated Cosmopolitan with a sharper kick.

A few years later, Walter asked Clooney to suggest a name for his new Elderflower, passion fruit and Prosecco Cocktail. La Nina’s Passion was born, named after Clooney’s mother.

La Nina's Passion

La Nina’s Passion

Fresh, fruity with the sparkling taste of summer, it’s elegant and ladylike to be sipped slowly. With our drinks, we are served a platter of delicious Ciccetti,  bar nibbles, fat green olives, smoked salmon blinis.

Fast forward to August 2013 and the gorgeous George arrives back at the Cipriani; to ensure he has his favourite tipple in Venice, he brought a crate or two of his own specially distilled Tequila.  Clooney, with his friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, are the creators of Casamigos premium tequila made from hand-picked Blue Weber agaves grown in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico – which he describes as, “ the best-tasting, smoothest tequila around.”

Casamigos Tequila with delivery boy, Mr Clooney

Casamigos Tequila with delivery boy, Mr Clooney

Originally intended for their own personal use at home, it is now marketed by the slogan “brought to you by those who drink it.” Casamigos is now gaining wide recognition, winning Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition.

The Gabbiani bar is the first in Europe to serve the Casamigos Tequila and to celebrate the occasion, Walter Bolzonella is the master mixologist behind his new cocktail, BuonaNotte Amigo.

Buananotte Amigos  cocktail

Buananotte Amigos

As a partner to the original Buonanotte, into the shaker goes crushed lime, ginger, orange bitter, cranberry juice and Reposado Tequila – a fresh, citrusy punch of a cocktail with a hint of Mexican spice.

Venice is the most romantic city in the world”  Woody Allen

Over the weekend of 26- 29th September, 2014 George Clooney and Amal Alamudden reserved the Hotel Cipriani exclusively for their wedding celebrations with family and friends. A few Casamigos Tequila shots and cocktails were sure to be consumed. !

Hotel Cipriani expressed all of my father’s splendid, intelligent experience. It was the embodiement of luxury service, sincere people providing simple service “ Arrigo Cipriani.

This manner of traditional Italian hospitality continues today with the same sense of personal pride and passion with which the Hotel was created, nearly sixty years ago. Casually glamorous in style, it’s as cool and classy as the cocktails at the Gabbiano Bar.  Salute Giuseppe!

Fast Facts

Belmond Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin,  Giudecca 10, 30133 Venice, Italy
Tel: +39 041 240 801
UK Reservations: 0845 077 2222

Accommodation: 39 guestrooms and 26 Junior Suites, 14 Suites, 1 Palladian Suite.  Pallazzo Vendramin.
Complimentary courtesy motor launch for guests to and from St. Mark’s Square.
Yachting Marina; Private Boat Tours
Oro Restaurant – Italian and Venetian cuisine. Cip’s Club – Dining Room & Terrace. Gabbiano Bar,  Porticciolo Pool bar
Wellness Centre and Spa; Olympic-size saltwater heated swimming pool; Tennis court; Children’s Holiday Club. Hairdresser; Boutique.

About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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