Private Places

Venice unmasked

Gardens along the Grand Canal in Venice are rare. Even more rare are gardens on the Grand Canal with a palazzo that can be yours—alas, if only for one night. That's why Palazzo Papadopoli is such important news. Count Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga and his wife, Princess Bianca di Savoia Aosta, inherited the 1580 mansion 16 years ago and, soon after, set about revamping it. (When Giberto's ancestors, brothers Nicolò and Angelo Papadopoli Aldobrandini, owned the place in the mid-19th century, they hired the decorator Michelangelo Guggenheim to do the interiors.) Giberto, a contemporary glass and silver artist, and Bianca, who works for Christie's in Venice, oversaw every detail. The ballroom and three salons of the piano nobile—the section of the palazzo offered for holding events—are elaborately gilded, hung with 19th-century Murano glass chandeliers, and painted with frescoes by Cesare Rotta. The floors are mother-of-pearl terrazzo, and in the family's private suites upstairs is a Tiepolo ceiling. In the Blue Room, just the right size for a small dinner party, one of Giberto's navy-blue Murano mirrors reflects the passing gondolas. The ballroom, which can accommodate a wedding for 90, has three huge windows framing a balcony on the Grand Canal. Come summer, the garden, one of the largest in Venice, blooms with roses and wisteria. Bianca is also on hand to help host dinners and style parties. "We live here and we love it," she says. "In a certain sense, when you rent the palace, you also get part of us. I want to show my guests the dream we are allowed to live." $ Prices available upon request. Contact Emily FitzRoy at Bellini Travel, 44-207/602-7602.

$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.