Let's get the cost question out of the way right at the start. The Danieli is not cheap. In fact it's phenomenally expensive. The cheapest double room at the lowest point of the low season is €280. That rises to €510 a night in peak season. The most expensive double room in peak season comes in at €925. And then there are the suites ....
So, you get the picture. But wait a moment. Don't dismiss the Danieli out of hand. At least once in your life, hopefully, you are going to have an excuse for a blow-out. You are going to want to treat yourself to an out-of-this-world hotel experience and, for all sorts of reasons, Venice's most venerable hotel is the place you should save up for.
For a start, it's in Venice. So what you have with the Danieli is a kind of dream world within a dream world – a hotel that's actually a 14th-century palazzo, a riot of chandeliers, marble columns, ornate mirrors and antique rugs, all the accoutrements fit for Venetian nobility. It is rendered additionally magical by the exquisiteness of the lighting, a warm, golden glow that hints at all manner of restful delights. It also has an acoustic that you only find in this kind of establishment, in which murmurs of contentment seem to echo through the triple-height lobby, mingling with the soft tread on a staircase, the swish of couture, a piano being played in some unseen recess, the clink of cocktail glasses.
That lobby is really something else. It just goes up and up and up. You enter through the revolving doors, and you are delivered into a realm of quiet sumptuousness that could so easily be intimidating but somehow isn't. That's the wonderful thing about the Danieli. It has far too much history to concern itself with being hip, and the mark of its classiness is the relaxed and welcoming way in which its immaculately attired staff treat you. You can feel at home at the Danieli very quickly, even though nothing in it is like anything you might actually have in your own home.
There are 225 rooms and suites spread across three adjoining palazzi, many of them in the newly refurbished Danieli Excelsior Palace, styled by renowned designer Jacques Garcia.
The rooms overlooking the lagoon are the most desirable, but the best views are available to all in the beautiful double-aspect top-floor restaurant, the Terrazza Danieli, which looks down the Grand Canal in one direction, up towards the Lido in the other, and across the lagoon to San Giorgio. The breakfast bar is a vision of plenty – there were four different types of sausage alone, a huge choice of other cooked dishes, plus a bountiful array of fruit and pastries – and at €52, plenty is what you should make sure you have. (Then you needn't eat again until the evening.)
The Danieli has a lovely, open aspect looking across the lagoon, but it is equally handy for St Mark's Square, which is round the corner, and all points beyond. The hotel can send a boat to pick you up from the airport, but since you've blown your life's savings on staying there you might prefer the public waterbus, which will drop you off almost directly at the door. I suppose if you were quibbling, you might object to the proximity to the hotel of some quite touristy stalls and the general throng of people that this stretch of the lagoon attracts. Equally, the activity going on outside, both on the water and the land, could be seen as all part of the appeal.
The rooms are luxuriously upholstered, with thick carpets, richly embroidered floor-to-ceiling curtains, and sensationally comfortable beds. The black marble bathrooms are superbly lit, and equipped with all the treats and necessities you might expect. Jacques Garcia has sympathetically renovated all the rooms in the 20th-century Danieli Excelsior Palace which are now elegant and moody. Historical suites, lagoon view doubles and some of the smaller rooms are housed in the 14th-century Palazzo Dandolo and are full of historic details, while baroque-inspired décor dominates the Palazzo Casa Nuova's rooms.
Hotel Danieli, Riva degli Schiavoni, 4196, Venice, Italy (00 39 041 522 6480; danielihotelvenice.com )
Doubles start at €280 a night, excluding breakfast; breakfast is €52 per person