Valentine's special: Sleepover: A bed for the night in Venice - Hotel Danieli
The Danieli is in the sestiere of San Marco, next to the Doge's Palace and on the banks of the lagoon. With St Mark's Square just around the corner. It has a private waterside entrance on the Rio del Vin canal so you can arrive in style. Rooms are divided between a late 14th-century former palazzo, the adjoining "Casa Nuova", built in the early 20th century, and a post-war addition. Behind the coral pink exterior lies a theatrical atrium and decadent lounge with Murano chandeliers.
It's the next best thing to staying at the Doge's Palace, one of the city's most celebrated and impressive structures. The oldest portion of the hotel was home to four generations of Dandolo Doges - their most famous forbear being Enrico, the conqueror of Constantinople. So the Danieli exudes grandeur, with a dramatic tiered gothic atrium, marble flooring, portraits of the Dandolos, gold-leaf antique furniture and marble columns. In 1822, Giuseppe Dal Niel bought a floor of the palazzo and rented rooms to guests. That proved so lucrative he was able to buy the entire building and convert it into a hotel. Danieli was his nickname.
The comfort factor
The most romantic rooms are in the original Dandolo Palace with a lagoon or canal view. Much of the furniture is antique, which means no two rooms are the same. In the "Casa Nuovo" rooms are suitably grand but more standardised, with matching Rubelli silk wallpaper, carpets and bedspreads. Beds are as comfortable as you would expect antique beds to be, but benefit from soft pillows.
The bathrooms were all updated when the Danieli came under the Starwood banner in the 1990s and were fitted out with marble and modern amenities. Although on the small side, they are functional with bidets, rosewood oil bath and body products and oversized cotton robes and slippers.
The food and drink
The Terazza Danieli, unlike many hotel eateries, is revered as a restaurant in its own right. The L-shaped room sits above the 1940s "Danielino" building with breathtaking views across the lagoon and the Doge's Palace. It is popular in the summer when the terrace is open to diners. It serves standard hotel fare for breakfast with an impressive selection of well- executed and unfussy northern Italian dishes at lunch and dinner.
Guests are a mix of European tourists and rich Italians with the odd dignitary or celebrity (think Sophia Loren and Martin Scorsese). Don't expect overly formal treatment but staff are friendly and helpful.
You're in the heart of Venice. St Mark's basilica, the Rialto Bridge and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection are all within walking distance. In the summer, guests are provided with a free boat service to Venice Lido where they can use the private swimming pool, golf course and tennis courts at the Westin Excelsior and Hotel Des Bains.
Owing to the age of the building, access for the disabled is limited, although some rooms have wider doors and lift access. Children and small pets are welcome but families do not get a discount.
Doubles start at Û396 (pounds 274), including breakfast. Rooms with a lagoon view start at Û590 (pounds 410).
Hotel Danieli (00 39 041 296 1222; www.luxury collection.com/danieli), Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, Italy.
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