As part of the project I decided to book a night at a hotel in Venice that does something a bit different with its interior design, the Novecento Boutique Hotel. This was a cheap time for hotels in Venice, and I paid a reasonable €105 (plus city tax) for one night in a double room single use (two people would have paid more).
The hotel is easy to get to - it helps if you know Venice or check a map - with just a few minutes to walk and two bridges to cross from the vaporetto stop Giglio, served by the Alilaguna ferry from Venice Marco Polo Airport. On a narrow lane between Campo San Maurizio and the Grand Canal, this is a quiet stop just off the beaten track, but only about ten minutes' walk from St Mark's Square and not far from where the Accademia bridge crosses into the arty Dorsoduro district.
From the discreet exterior into the reception lobby, the hotel sets out its agenda: welcoming, stylish and cared-for, but understated. Most of Venice's smarter hotels set out to impress in the 'grand palace' style with gilding and gaudiness. The Novecento is inspired by a more 'lived-in' era, the cosier style of the beginning of the last century (hence the name). If, like me, you have visited the museum at Palazzo Fortuny and loved the bohemian eclecticism created by designer Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), then this is your kind of Venetian dwelling.
There are only nine rooms in the family-run hotel, and each is styled differently. After a friendly welcome I was shown up to room 1 on the first floor - there's no lift, but I was helped with my luggage. This stylish room was a very pleasant and practical space, comfortable and classy at the same time. Coloured glass in the windows and handsome old furniture complemented the traditional Venetian terrazzo flooring and the striking metal headstead. I also liked the drapes over the bed and the welcome chocolate. With a suitcase stand, wardrobe, table and chairs, it had all I needed for a comfortable stay. The bathroom was small but decent, though I'd have preferred a curtain or blind for the coloured-glass window.
Unfortunately when I visited the hotel was awaiting an electrician to fix a beeping alarm. As this was faintly audible in my room, the receptionist suggested switching to an alternative bedroom (in fact, they'd fixed the beeping by bedtime). So I packed up again and moved to a second-floor room off the wide salon, room 6. In an Eastern-inspired style, this room had cream and gold hangings and a low bed on a carved wooden platform. Though the look was striking, I wasn't personally keen on the low height of the bed, and I wondered if older guests or those with knee problems might find this a challenge. The two chairs in the room were small and wooden, so without sinking to below knee-height on the bed, there was nowhere to sit and relax in the room. The comfortable seating areas in the attractive and empty salon outside, however, perhaps made up for this. This room looked out over the hotel's small courtyard and other courtyard gardens, which provided a quiet and interesting perspective. The bathroom was larger than that of my previous room, with a double-width shower with two shower heads (showering a deux?) plus a rainfall shower head.
Both rooms were warm - very important in Venice in winter - with heating that the guest could control. The style, textures and fabrics added to the temperature to give a feeling of cosiness and comfort.
I was impressed with the hotel's care for details and generosity as well as its appearance. There was free drinking water in the bedrooms as well as a little welcome chocolate on the bed, and a self-service array of hot drinks and cake in the afternoon in the nice little bar/breakfast room on the ground floor - very welcome on arrival, as well as an 'honesty bar' for alcoholic drinks. Toiletries were good quality Ortygia products. On departure I was presented with a little packet of Venetian biscuits to take with me. Breakfast was an excellent spread - more delicious cake, along with pastries, yoghurts, a good choice of fruits and fresh fruit salad, bread, carefully-labelled local cheeses and cold meat, eggs prepared on request. As well as this ground-floor public space, guests could also relax in the large salon on the second floor, a typical Venetian reception room running the width of the building, furnished with the same eclectic bohemian style as the rest of the hotel. With bookshelves to browse, armchairs to sink in, paintings, piled cushions and objets d'art, sitting in this hall felt like featuring in a lifestyle magazine.
I enjoyed my one-night stay and I would be very happy to return or to recommend the Novecento to friends and relatives. The atmosphere was much warmer and friendlier than is typical for Venice, and I loved the hotel's ambience, stylish but cosy at the same time. My only reservation over the hotel's style was the burbling music played in public areas; I don't appreciate it when hotels do this, but other guests may do. The little extras like free afternoon tea really add to a stay, particularly a longer stay. The noise problem in my first room was resolved very quickly and pro-actively, and although I didn't love the second room quite as much, I would say that was very much personal taste.
A day later, thinking about my stay, I've realized what the quality was that impressed me at the Novecento hotel. It was authenticity. I looked around another Venetian hotel just before writing this review, and like so many, it gave the impression of being furnished by interior designers on behalf of commercial investors to give an approximation of what they thought the largest possible number of international guests would want in a hotel. Everything felt a bit too shiny, a bit too random and a bit too unconvincing. In contrast, the Novecento was the real deal. All the furnishings and designs were individual and obviously chosen with genuine care, enthusiasm and personal attention to detail. For me, that worked really well.
If you want to spend a while getting to know Venice, particularly if you're interested in a slightly alternative slant on the city's style, I think you probably couldn't do better than this hotel. And if you stay here and like the hotel's interior design, don't miss a chance to visit Palazzo Fortuny, a short walk away, which is open for regular exhibitions.
> Make a booking/check availability and prices at the Novecento
NOTE: I travel independently and anonymously, and pay for my accommodation. If you make a booking through the links on this page, you will be helping to support the Italy Heaven website through a small commission paid by Booking.com, who have a price guarantee to ensure you don't pay any extra for using their services. Thank you!