I stayed at the home of Venice Film Festival – and it was quite something

I stayed at the home of Venice Film Festival – and it was quite something
Hotel Excelsior

As summer draws to a close, Venice prepares to open the doors to its prestigious film festival welcoming a host of A-listers, designers, a diverse catalogue of new releases and film critics to the red carpet.

Each year, the Venice Lido – a short 15-minute boat ride from the famed St Mark's Square – plays host to the Venice Film Festival. While 2023's event may experience some subtle changes due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, the show seemingly must go on from 30 August to 9 September.

The festival's artistic director Alberto Barbera previously described the strike's impact as "modest," with the planned lineup – including Bradley Cooper's Maestro and Sofia Coppola's Priscilla – still in competition for the Golden Lion prize. Meanwhile, the original opener, Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers featuring Zendaya, has been pushed back to an unconfirmed premiere date next year.

A-listers at the 2023 Venice Film Festival have remained tight-lipped about their attendance or absence after Barbera stated "a few stars will not be with us." However, some are still expected to attend the hotly anticipated event of the year.

I managed to sneak a peek at the majestic palace-style hotel where celebrities lay their heads during the decadent affair – and it certainly was something.

Nestled on the Lido resides the opulent Hotel Excelsior, which has been the protagonist and host of the festival since 1932. Excelsior has welcomed the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock to name a few. One of the rooms, renowned as the Stucchi room, even had its own starring role in Robert De Niro's Once Upon A Time In America.

esHotel Excelsior

Excelsior epitomises the golden age of film, with its alluring cocktail of history, culture, laidback glamour and charm.

The moment I stepped foot into the hotel lobby and strolled through the halls adorned with candid shots of classic Hollywood stars and complete with designer boutiques, I was transcended into a world of luxury beyond measure. A far cry from the dismal UK summer.

Excelsior owes its success to entrepreneur Nicolò Spada, who commissioned the famed Venetian architect Giovanni Sardi to make the dream "only on paper" come to fruition. They have since welcomed over 110 years' worth of guests, with 30,000 Venetians and over 3,000 guests flocking to the grand opening for a single evening in July 1908.

The unmatched hospitality and Venetian charm continue to this day, with depths of space, pools, a fitness studio and the only resort with its very own private beach complete with cabanas that provide a peaceful paradise for guests.

Hotel Excelsior

A live piano performance of Audrey Hepburn's 'Moon River', hand-in-hand with an idyllic backdrop of the skyline, certainly set the tone for dinner at the Adriatico Terrace, where I was served a heavenly three-course meal.

This included what can possibly only be described as the most exquisite dessert I've ever encountered.

Interestingly, the terrace is where the official 1932 Venice Film Festival launch took place with a view of films that are considered classics to this day. These include Frank Capra's Forbidden, Grand Hotel by Edmund Goulding and the original Frankenstein by James Whale.

Now, with a hotel so grand and weather we Brits have been deprived of all summer, it was rather tempting to stay on the grounds and do absolutely nothing but be a voyeur to how the other half live.

As dreamy as that sounds, the push of encouragement came from a complimentary boat taxi service that runs throughout the day between Venice and Lido.

Hotel Excelsior

A short 15 minutes across the water, I became a full-fledged tourist with gelato and a gondola ride rounded off with a Bellini at the famous Harry's Bar, the birthplace of the iconic cocktail renowned across the world. When the day was done, I headed back to my newfound comforts back at Excelsior.

After 48 hours of experiencing unmatched laidback luxury, I (reluctantly) headed back to a rainy UK. As for whether I'd recommend Excelsior? Absolutely. Even if it's to stop by on your Venice travels to try out the evening menu, open to non-guests with prior booking.

For more information on stays and events at Hotel Excelsior, click here.

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