The impression made from arriving in a city for the first time tends to be stronger than of any subsequent visits. How fortunate then to have chosen the newly opened Hotel Heureka in the quiet Cannaregio district as our destination for our first visit to Venice, arriving there aboard one of the chic water taxis of Venice Quality Transfers, directly from Marco Polo Airport. Although it has long since lost its ancient financial and maritime power it bears its old name, La Serenissima, with pride offering its visitors days of tranquil rest but also unexpected discoveries.
Should you want to have some guidance, guests at Hotel Heureka are invited to discover the Little Black Book of Secrets, exclusively prepared for a bespoke Venetian experience. This may include a visit to the family running the Battiloro business since 1600, where fifteen generations have produced gold and silver leaf of the highest quality, following the ancient methods and traditions, adorning many of the most important ancient and modern monuments in the world. And there are more hidden secrets to be discovered just a few steps away. The gold leaves find their way to Orsoni, who have manufactured mosaics for the renovation for the San Marco Basilica in Venice, enamels for the decoration of the irregular shapes of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Golden Buddha in Thailand.
However, it is not difficult to get lost in Venice, but neither is finding your way again, during which you may have found yourself at the newly opened Casanova interactive museum giving you glimpse of life in Venice during the 18th century or at Ospedale della Pietà where another famous son of Venice, Antonio Vivaldi, made his name as a composer and educator.
After exploring Venice, what better way of ending the day than returning home to a Venetian palace retaining its original charm and features blended in with modern quirky and exquisite design. Fundamental to the character of Hotel Heureka are the piani nobili, the central common spaces for guests to enjoy on each floor, most tastefully decorated and creating a unique guest experience. Once rested, you have a choice of excellent trattoria and taverns, a canal or two away, of which Ostaria Da Rioba became a favourite during our time in Venice and even more so Baccari next door with its informal and joyous atmosphere.
For those less familiar with this enchanting place, Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. The ancient city has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.
Despite tourists outnumbering locals by two to one on busy days, Venice never ceases to amaze. Summer brings crowds, not least from the large cruise liners, which Venetian authorities are seeking to control, but the reason why they come seems obvious, an enchanting city miraculously built on water. But even at peak visitor times, you are never more than a bridge and an alley away from a more secluded city, full of hidden gems, handsome Gothic Palazzi and lively neighbourhood wine bars. In any season, Venice's churches and museums offer antique glories aplenty, but there is also a vibrant contemporary art scene, even away from the Art Biennale.
Before the doors of the exquisite Hotel Heureka opened after a two-year refurbishment, it would have been an entrance you might have overlooked or missed whilst meandering the quiet streets of Cannaregio, to find a sunny spot for lunch along the still Venetian backwaters in a local ‘bacaro’. Today, as you pass this ‘fondamenta’ away from the crowds, and catch sight of the entrance that leads to the private garden beyond, you cannot help but step inside, be drawn in.
Contemporary design, striking architecture, unique furnishings, sumptuous fabrics and quirky touches catch your eye throughout the building. With its 10 individually styled rooms, which are a mix of deluxe doubles and suites, the hotel has a distinct look that is all its own. The hallmarks are the essential four-poster beds, lavish Lacroix textile-drops as bed-heads, double Rubelli brocade silks at the windows, incredible scape lamps, designer bathrooms with grand free-standing baths, and Julian Khol commissioned art ... each room is a haven in which to escape and unwind.
This palazzo, in which Hotel Heureka makes its home, dates to the 16th Century and the sympathetic restoration now sees a smooth overlap between the architectural grandeur of the past and contemporary quirkiness of today. Outside, Hotel Heureka hides a true treasure, in the form of a spacious secret garden; an oasis of tranquillity, where the bees find their pollen before taking it back to Murano’s bee hives. By day, the garden is the perfect place to relax under the leafy canopy of the trees, and at night, it’s an enchanting spot in which to while away an evening under a blanket of stars. In a word, ‘Heureka’, - we have found our place in Venice.