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is something of a rite of passage. Thus, I cannot conceive that a shortstay visitor would be well served by finding a little hotel tucked away down some shadowy canal. There can be no more frustrating prospect than trying to find one's way back to it after dinner, and with limited illumination. No, much rather plump for one of the properties situated on the Grand Canal. We propose the Londra Palace Hotel for its sense of history as much as its modern luxuries. Created in 1900 when Hotel D'Angleterre merged with its next door neighbour the Beau Rivage, the Londra Palace was where Tchaikovsky composed his Fourth Symphony, the Do Leoni. That historic room, (#106 for purists), is one of over 100 windows that open up onto the Grand Canal with views stretching across to San Giorgio Island. Our room, on the fifth – and highest – floor was reclaimed from under the rafters. Being at the end of the building, our tasteful, sumptuous lodgings had windows on three of its silk-lined walls, and the use of a Jacuzzi. I resolutely left the blinds up at night, so that when I woke it was to a staggering view outside the window. Tchaikovsky's symphony also gives its name to the Do Leoni restaurant downstairs on the Riva degli Schiavani, the main quayside running eastwards from in front of the San Marco Piazza to the Londra Palace. As privileged as one feels to have dinner there as the crowds mill past, it cannot touch breakfast when there are no passersby and you feel as though all of Venice and the pearlescent hue of its early morning sky belong only to you. Here, location is everything as you gaze across the Grand Canal to the beaming white dome of the Chiesa della Salute on the opposite bank. Venice's only swimming pool can be found at the Cipriani, probably the most expensive hotel in the city. Bought in 1976 by the Orient-Express group, it was also the first in their portfolio (they have subsequently

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added another three establishments elsewhere in Italy). The Cip – as it is known – is not in Venice proper but on Giudecca Island. This was extremely perspicacious of the original Mr C because he realised that between the pulsing crowds and the flustering heat of summer, a refined traveller would be grateful for an oasis of calm and tranquillity away from the tourist mass. The rooms were recently refurbished, though I imagine one is not staying at the Cipriani for the room itself. There is a very grand restaurant with several signature dishes, the chance to spot a celeb or two or three, and let’s not forget the one-and-only swimming pool in town. In his classic 1912 novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann noted that “to come to Venice by the station is like entering a palace by the back door. No one should approach, save by the high seas.” To take nothing away from the Cipriani, one of the best reasons for visiting it is to leave it. That's because the Cip has an elegant vintage speed boat (think From Russia with Love) that ferries guests to and fro. So, if you're not going to book in, at least spoil yourself with a meal or a drink at the bar simply so that you can experience both the return trip to the boat's mooring in front of St Mark's Square and the sagacity of Mann’s advice. A testament to the excellence of your hotel is whether you have second thoughts about ever leaving the comfort of your room. These establishments pack as much showstopping punch as any of the public sights visitors queue to see. From villas to palaces, monasteries to apartments, these are the properties that transcend the sensational to reach the realm of the sublime. Small Luxury Hotels of the World is an unsurpassed collection of over 480 hotels spanning more than 70 countries, which together offer an infinite variety of tailored luxury accommodation experiences. Visit www.slh.com. 

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