A room with a view has its downsides. The American man at breakfast looked a little tired. In fact, he was positively cranky. "Do the boats run up and down the canal all night long?" I stifled a smirk. Maybe the side view looking, disappointingly, into apartments opposite had its advantages. If we craned our necks we could just make out a glimmer of the Grand Canal, but the only sound drifting in through the huge windows was the pealing of bells.
And we could appreciate the view at breakfast in the decadent, marble-columned, heavily draped waterfront restaurant. Or over a drink on the terrace, gazing at the magnificent Baroque church, Santa Maria della Salute.
The Hotel Gritti Palace, which dates back to the 16th century, was once the home of the Doge Andrea Gritti. It later became the residence of the Vatican ambassadors to Venice but was converted into a hotel at the beginning of the 20th century. It's now part of Starwood Hotels' Luxury Collection. Kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents, Hollywood greats, opera singers and ageing rock stars have all stayed here – and possibly had their beauty sleep disturbed.
Novelist W Somerset Maugham loved the hotel, however, and in a letter on 18 June 1960 wrote: "I first came to Venice 66 years ago. I was 20. There were no ferry boats, no motor scafi, in those days and the only sound you heard in the canals was the strange cries of the gondoliers as they shouted their warning that they were about to turn a corner."
Today parts of the hotel look a little tired. The entrance and reception are low key rather than grand and palatial like the Danieli or the so-sparkling-you-need-your-sunglasses marble foyer of the Baglioni. But, as Somerset Maugham continued, "There are few things in life more pleasant than to sit on the terrace of the Gritti when the sun about to set bathes in lovely colour the Salute."
Hotel Gritti Palace, Campo Santa Maria del Giglio 2467, Venice, Italy (00 39 041 794 611; www.luxurycollection.com/grittipalace).
Time from international airport: Marco Polo international airport is just over an hour from San Marco by water bus, which costs €12 (£9.20) per person. A water taxi takes half the time but costs around €90 (£69) for the journey.
There are 80 double rooms, two single rooms, six suites and three junior suites (15 rooms and three suites have views of the Grand Canal so you need to specify when you book). From the website it looks as though the rooms of this 16th-century palace are dripping in gilt and priceless antiques. Ours wasn't, but it was spacious, light and airy. The matching green hand-painted furniture seemed more Alpine ski chalet than grand palazzo – but was better than any standardised mahogany hotel fare. There were a few old pieces dotted around – a mottled mirror over the green desk and an oil painting above the bed and a scattering of Persian rugs on the floor. The huge Murano glass chandelier and glorious orchids lifted the room into the realms of five-star luxury. The bed was huge and covered in lush linen sheets with decadent gold trim and the bathrooms were the regulation five-star marble.
Freebies: a bowl of fruit and standard Starwood toiletries.
Keeping in touch: direct-dial telephones, satellite television and high-speed wireless internet access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €330 (£254), room only.
I'm not paying that: Locanda Novecento, Calle del Dose, San Marco 2683-84, Venice (00 39 041 241 3765; www.novecento.biz) has doubles from €140 (£108) including breakfast.