A wide canal in Venice, Italy

Some cities are so deeply associated with their history, it’s hard to see them as living, evolving places with modern identities. Take Venice, for instance. Italy’s grand canal city is best known for its gondolas, museums, old crafts like glassblowing, and ornate architectural details. So what does “modern Venice” even look like? Just head to Hotel Il Palazzo to find out.

Inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

Set in an ancient palazzo off the beaten path in the quiet residential neighborhood of Dorsoduro, Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental is a beautiful study in transmuting all of the essential elements of a city’s core identity into a space that feels fresh and cutting edge. Offering 32 elegantly designed rooms and suites along with a back garden that opens out onto a canal, the hotel is fittingly outfitted considering its proximity to both the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Galleria dell’Accademia art museum.

Inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

Designer Dorothée Meilichzon is the mastermind behind the hotel’s chic look. The longer you look around, the more small details you’ll note that reference archetypal elements of Venetian style, starting with all of those signature arches. Home to a spectacular array of Gothic architecture, Venice is awash with arches in a variety of sizes and degrees of ornamentation, like those on the famous Doge’s Palace.

Sign outside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

Terrazzo, the composite material consisting of chips of marble, granite, glass, or quartz in a binding material like cement, originated in Venice. So naturally, you’ll see terrazzo everywhere in the Hotel Il Palazzo, from the floors to the sign fixed onto the brick facade outside. There’s plenty of Venetian marble and glass around as well, in addition to luxe textiles like richly colored velvet. In other parts of the hotel, you’ll find stripes referencing the shirts of the gondoliers who navigate the city’s iconic boats through the canals.

The reception area inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

But even with all of these references, there’s nothing cheesy or overdone about the design. The hotel still feels warm and welcoming, deeply rooted within its setting and unquestionably unique.

The designers explain: “We have worked on the interior of the hotel and the restaurant using very classical Venetian elements that we love, but also by using more contemporary elements such as tributes to the Memphis movement, [including] bright colors, brushed aluminum, scalloped edges, glass lamps from Luciano Vistosi, Breccia Capraia marbles, pand] arches on [the] bathtub… We have saved as many architectural existing elements as we could from the existing palazzo: the beams, the huge ceiling height on the first floor, the gallery, the amazing gothic windows, [and] the double wooden doors.”

Common area inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental
A bedroom inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental
Inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

“Elements that are already very strong in terms of identity, we have tried to reinforce with strong Venetian inspirations: symmetrical architecture, marble, many forms of stripes (painted, metal marquetry, fabrics…) “Gothique Fleuri” inspiration, colors from the laguna and from the Venetian facades — and also by using traditional timeless Venetian savoir faire such as black lacquer, traditional cement terrazzo from Venezia, some marmorino, and calce on the walls.”

A bedroom inside Venice's Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental

The hotel also features a large restaurant on the ground floor, with an open kitchen that uses only seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients and a cocktail bar, to boot. Room rates start around €170 including taxes and fees, if you’d like to check it out in person.