San Clemente Palace, Venice

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am

Where is it? On the exclusive, seven-hectare island of San Clemente, 10 minutes from St Mark's Square. The resort is reached by taking a complimentary hotel boat that operates 24 hours a day. Guests can retire to the seclusion of the island when the Venice crowds become too much to bear, or pop into town when they please, disembarking close to trendy boutiques and Harry's Bar, which was made famous by Ernest Hemingway.

Vintage or modern? The three-storey, 200-room hotel was a Camaldolesi monastery in the 17th century. Restoration respected the historical and artistic heritage so the hotel retains its frescos and Renaissance facade. The church, dating back to 1131, is still in use.

Who goes there? Robert De Niro, Sofia Loren, Barbara Berlusconi (wife of Silvio, Italy's prime minister) and Italian starlet Martina Stella are among those who have stayed at the property, which opened two years ago. It is also becoming a favourite with well-heeled Venetians.

What's the atmosphere like? A combination of old-world charm and 21st-century amenities creates a sophistic-ated air. Local Murano chandeliers hang in the corridors, while silk tapestries and velvet damasks adorn the walls.

What about the guest quarters? Refined elegance inspired by the Venetian Serenissima Republic at the height of its power sums up the spacious rooms. Request the Naviganti wing, which is separate from the main building, to enjoy a unique panorama of St Mark's Square. Room 184, in the corner, has a 180-degree view of Venice.

Isn't Italy all about the food? San Clemente offers three restaurants but don't miss Ca dei Frati, with its scrumptious gourmet Mediterranean cuisine and a wine list comprising more than 300 choices from around the world. The setting, with breathtaking views of the Venetian lagoon and St Mark's Square, is elegant. Less formal dining is available at Le Maschere, and beside the pool during the summer at La Laguna.

Feeling energetic? If strolling down the hotel's extraordinarily long corridors or walking through the historic courtyards isn't exercise enough, there is always the outdoor swimming pool, two tennis courts, fitness centre and even a three-hole golf course.

Anything else we should know? The hotel spa, home to Venice's only comprehensive Beauty and Wellness Centre, offers various types of massage.

And the bottom line? A double room costs from Euro435 ($4,000) a night in high season (March 1 to October 31) and from Euro205 at other times; a junior suite costs Euro710/Euro440; and a two-bedroom residential suite costs Euro3,100/Euro2,160. Prices include breakfast and service, but not 10 per cent tax. Honeymoon and spa packages are available.

San Clemente Palace Hotel, Isola di San Clemente, 1 San Marco, Venice, tel: 39 041 244 5001;