JC Stays: Ca’ di Dio, Venice

A new lease of life for a historic Venetian site


While Ca’ di Dio’s history stretches back to the 13th century, as long a pedigree as Venice’s own Jewish community, the hotel that first opened as a waystation for pilgrims in 1272 has reinvented itself as La Serenissima’s newest five-star accommodation.

It’s surprising that it took 750 years for this handsome building’s commercial potential to be realised, given its prime location overlooking the Grand Canal.

It still manages to remain beneath the radar, with no grand entrance or sign to highlight its existence, just behind the vaporetto stop for Arsenale. Only a 10-minute stroll from St Mark’s Square, the area is much quieter and less crowded, not to mention handy if you're visiting for the Biennale, whose main sites are nearby.

The complete renovation, which still preserves the building’s original 13th century features, has been undertaken under the direction of renowned interior designer Patricia Urquiola. She has cleverly addressed the dichotomy between the severity of the building, with its plain, minimal exterior, and the sumptuousness of Venetian decor, given a contemporary twist in guest rooms and public spaces.

Local artisans, particularly the glassblowers of nearby Murano, are celebrated in the furnishings, while wood, wrought iron, stone and marble all play their part in conveying understated luxury. Visits to the hotel’s glass-blowing partners and other local artisans can be arranged on request.

Our corner room, overlooking the lagoon and a small canal to one side, was designed for comfort, with lush fabrics in soft colours; the splendid wall-mounted Murano glass bedside lampshades are so close to waking heads and phone-charging points though that it’s not surprising they have been broken more than once by careless guests.

There was a welcome sofa, armchair and coffee table and spacious dressing area outside the elegant marble bathroom, itself equipped with walk-in shower and bidet.

Instead of the usual alcohol-stocked mini-bar, a fridge was restocked daily with complimentary water and soft drinks, and there was an all-important espresso and tea station for a reviving hit of caffeine (decaf also supplied) before embarking on the next excursion.

In an area slightly short on street life, the outdoor tables of the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, Vero, provide a delightful vantage point for the waterfront view and a bit of people-watching.

It’s hard to take your eyes off food as visually beautiful as it is delicious though. The cuisine is particularly strong on the local fish and vegetables which are the glory of the city, its lagoon and island farms.

No less welcome is the more casual Essentia, a restaurant bar offering air-conditioned respite and the chance for afternoon tea or aperitivos in the adjacent Alchemia bar after breakfast service in the inner courtyard is over.

While the breakfast buffet could be a tad more exciting, freshly-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice were welcome, along with the offer of eggs made to order; a bird of prey and its handler standing sentinel to keep the seagulls away offered a touch of unexpected morning entertainment.

Don’t miss the handsome library which connects hotel and restaurant, the small spa if aching legs call out for a massage or the chef’s garden which is a secret, peaceful corner.

And consider making an entrance direct from the canal if taking a water taxi from the airport; guests are welcomed from beneath a world-class piece of glass sculpture, which looks very much like a Chihuly chandelier.


Doubles at Ca’ di Dio cost from around £390 B&B.

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