We’d expect only the best from a designer called Michelangelo Guggenheim; the 19th-century rococo master made his mark on the Palazzo Papadopoli when it changed hands some 200 years ago. Its then owners commissioned Guggenheim to transform the 16th-century palazzo’s living spaces with frescoes, mirrors, chandeliers and gilded flourishes that elevated the San Polo property to a model of neo-Renaissance style. Today, the palazzo’s grandest floor, the piano nobile, houses the public areas of Aman Resorts’ newest hotel, including a palatial lounge and three equally opulent dining areas, two of which feature ceilings painted by the 18th-century artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The 24 suites are no less ornate, with protected frescoes and mosaic floors, which the restrained Maxalto furnishings do nothing to overshadow, and views of the Grand Canal which fronts the hotel, or the private garden to the back.
With this elegant, glass sliver of a hotel, Shangri-La got it right from the start, hiring James KM Cheng, a Vancouver virtuoso of high-rises, to lead the project in collaboration with Hariri Pontarini, architects of some of Toronto’s most graceful contemporary landmarks. Their combined triumph was to bring as much interest to the streetscape as to the 65th-floor penthouses. The lobby is a 24-hour playground, with an upscale restaurant and a bar decorated with 180 blown-glass light fixtures by Bocci. Over the reception, two cantilevered boxes – one in marble, the other in glass – contain a private lobby for long-term residents and a public complex of terraces, screening rooms and galleries. The 202 guest rooms and suites (the Shangri-La suite is pictured above) are the largest in the city, while the 828 sq m health club offers, among other facilities, an infra-red sauna and 20m pool.