For more than a century, the Hotel Des Bains has loomed over Venice's seafront like an opulent ivory fortress, proudly housing the array of glittering international guests arriving at the city's annual film festival.
Thomas Mann found solace to write there; it is where the ballet impresario Diaghilev retreated to die; and Luchino Visconte made its ballroom the stuff of celluloid legend when he filmed Death in Venice, starring Dirk Bogarde, inside the stately hotel.
So the film industry arriving at the shores of the Lido – the strip of land near mainland Venice where the film festival takes place – had every reason to bemoan the Sheraton Group hotel's closure and its sale to an Italian company which is currently in the process of turning it into an upmarket apartment block.
The historic 200-room hotel, which was built in 1900 with a self-consciously belle epoque design, is scheduled to reopen in around two years. Variety magazine called the closure – which was met with dismay by festival-goers unaware of the hotel's fate – "the end of an era". The report pointed out that the "Palladian hotel with its terrace, big pool and ballroom... was the choice place to stay."
Industry insiders reflected sadly that the closure of the Hotel Des Bains could alter the dynamic of the festival in years to come. The hotel, one of only two on the Lido (the other being the Excelsior) considered good enough to accommodate the world's acting talent when they descend upon to Venice, has already prompted some to book into hotels in other parts of the city.
Quentin Tarantino, the US film director and chair of the jury, is believed to be staying at the Danieli Hotel on the mainland, a short water-taxi ride away from the festival. Actresses such as Natalie Portman, Catherine Deneuve and the American director Sophia Coppola are also believed to be staying at luxury mainland hotels, such as the Cipriani and the Gritti Palace.
The flow of water-taxis across the lagoon has been improved to encourage easy access. One industry insider said the closure of the Hotel Des Bains left few options for celebrities to stay close to the festival. "The Excelsior is a place of business for journalists and sales and marketing executives. We're all going to be squashed on its terrace now," they said.