The problem with many Italian five-star hotels is an over-preoccupation with tradition. Fabrics are often dark and heavy, ceilings beamed and hand-painted, rooms dripping cherubs, tchotchkes and mouldings.
But there’s a nod to the past that’s mercifully free of baroque overkill in the light, bright and pleasingly modern Splendid Venice, which has caught onto changing tastes but still respects the traditions visitors seek in a city whose tourism is built on nostalgia for the past.
First, the location - perfectly placed on a canal between San Marco and the Rialto, Venice’s new designer shopping hub since the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi mall opened in a mediaeval building abutting the bridge on the Grand Canal.
From here you can cross into Cannareggio, evocative home of the old Venice Ghetto, or stroll over the Accademia Bridge into Dorsoduro, the quiet residential heart of the city centre which is also home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of modern art.
The hotel, part of Italy’s premium Starhotels Collezione, is no less luxurious for acknowledging the 21st century in its bedroom design. Textured wallpaper with the feel of canvas, silk headboards in ice-cream pastels and oversized scalloped mirrors framed in silver-painted wood rather than bevelled glass offer an updated take on the sumptuous materials of the 17th century.
The past has not entirely been discarded; a beautifully-lit bathroom entirely in white marble and a roof terrace with a view of San Marco’s distinctive belltower offer direct links to the city’s past, while fast free Wi-Fi and in-room espresso machines acknowledge the needs of the present.
There is a large roof terrace, the Altana, offering panoramic views of domes, weathervanes and campaniles to all, with a complimentary coffee station in the morning. Come the aperitivo hour, an alfresco bar springs into life to complement the cosy one on the ground floor.
Le Maschere, the restaurant at the heart of the hotel, has a wow factor of its own in the retractable roof which permits guests to breakfast in sunshine and dine beneath the stars whenever the weather allows. Fare is traditional, with plenty of options for the observant in beautifully-cooked sea bass and tuna and Italian vegetarian favourites like a Caprese salad of mozzarella, tomato and basil.
Breakfast is a generous spread which includes sublime artisan ricotta and a wonderful bakery. Come in January or February and you’ll find Venice’s answer to latkes - the deep-fried, sugar-rolled frittelle which mark the season in the run-up to Lent and appear after every meal.
The hotel is keen to promote Venice’s traditions, so lays on its own parties for guests during Carnevale and can arrange trips showcasing the city’s unique crafts, including mask-making workshops and the glass-blowing factories or Murano across the lagoon.
Even arrival and departure are a treat - a trip through the canals to station or airport via water taxis which pull right up to the hotel entrance.
But you won’t need a taxi to reach any of La Serenissima’s main attractions, which are all just a stroll away - and there’s much to be said for being close enough to San Marco to nip into the square before breakfast in your pyjamas to beat the tour groups who rob this thrilling expanse of some of its magic once the day is no longer new.