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Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend

History and secrets of the oldest hotel in Venice

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets

There are very few grand hotels in the world that can boast of being called simply by name: "the Danieli", as well as the Ritz or the Taj Mahal and, even less, those that, due to the preciousness of the furnishings and the long history, are as a matter of fact a real museum.

Hotel Danieli, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, is also much more: a world icon of hospitality, it has become the protagonist of the history of Venice since the 14th century, over 500 years like Palazzo Dandolo, founded by the family that gave Venice four Doges, including the famous Enrico Dandolo, and the last 200 as Hotel Danieli, the oldest, in continuous activity, in Venice.

Hotel Danieli bears in its name the story of the man who created it: in 1822, in fact, Giuseppe Dal Niel, former owner of Leon Bianco in Venice, decided to hire some rooms of the splendid neo-Gothic palace, which he manages to acquire completely a couple of years later, and called it the Royal Hotel. First international tourists to attend Venice, the French gave it the nickname “chez Dal Niel”, later transformed into Royal Danieli.

Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets
Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets

Already described at the end of the fifteenth century as “the noblest palace in Venice”, the Hotel Danieli is the highest sublimation of the “Splendid Venice”, protagonist of its important history for 200 years.

The Hotel initially occupied only the Palazzo Dandolo, built by the homonymous family in the 15th century and famous for being one of the noblest ones of the Serenissima. After its purchase by Dal Niel, an important restoration was carried out by the architect Tranquillo Orsi, also author of the decorations of the Teatro La Fenice, who changed the style of the interiors making them neo-Gothic.

In 1895, Mr. Genovesi and Campi Bozzi & C. became the new owners of the hotel. They carried out expensive renovations, adding the power grid, radiators and an elevator; it was then that the structure was also extended, connecting it with a bridge, to the Palazzo Casa Nuova, formerly the HQ of the customs office in Venice.
In 1906 Count Giuseppe Volpi founded the CIGA Hotels chain and bought the Royal Hotel Danieli. The hotel underwent its definitive structural modification in 1948, when the buildings that separated Palazzo Dandolo and Palazzo delle Prigioni were demolished and Palazzo Danieli Excelsior was erected, today the third building that form the hotel, renovated in 2008 by the well-known architect Jacques Garcia.

Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets

Hotel Danieli accompanied the Serenissima in all its fundamental stages, the protagonist of its most intense chapters of political and cultural history: it is here in 1630 that Claudio Monteverdi staged one of his first works, at the time the Danieli also hosted a small theater, also here that in 1945, after the Liberation, the first Allied flag was waved in the city, and that in 1949 the Campiello Literary Prize was born. And the historical anecdotes could really go on indefinitely.

But are, perhaps, the great love stories that really brought the hotel to the world’s main headlines. Like when, in 1833, the writer Auguste Charpentier, aka George Sand, lost her head to the Venetian doctor Pietro Pagello, who arrived in her room number 10 to cure both her and her former lover. Or in 1894, when the writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, also here, met the actress Eleonora Duse asking her to have a private dinner in the famous Suite Royal Doge Dandolo, the witness of so many famous passions.

Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets

In 1957 the love between Aristotle Onassis and the divine Maria Callas also began at the Danieli, when she was invited to a ball by her friend, journalist and socialite Elsa Maxwell, an event which was followed two years later by the legendary holiday on the entrepreneur’s boat.

Loves that are celebrated also in the history of cinema which sees the Hotel Danieli starring in many famous films from “007, from Russia with love” with Sean Connery to “Moonraker” with Roger Moore, up to “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie.

Hotel Danieli, 200 years of a legend — Veneto Secrets

The important anniversary gives a further reason to stay the Hotel Danieli, perhaps to stay in a suite, or to dine in the wonderful Ristorante Terrazza Danieli with the menu created by its executive chef Alberto Fol in honor of the Bicentenary, based on the recipes they have made the history of the Hotel, preceded by a Rosso Danieli, the gin and vermouth-based cocktail created for the anniversary, at Bar Dandolo, right where 007 used to order his famous Martini.

Furthermore, until October 2022, you can enjoy the photographic exhibition, of which you can see some images in the photo gallery, dedicated to the most beautiful historical photos of Danieli. Unmissable!

The Secret

The bond between Danieli and its guests has always been very special: in fact, few people know that the hotel also has a long list of memorabilia and art objects donated by its customers, such as the flag of the allies donated in 2000 during one of his holidays in Venice by the New Zealand soldier who hung it in 1945 as a symbol of the Liberation.

We thank the historic director of the Hotel Danieli Claudio Staderini for sharing his story with Secrets.

(Historic photos courtesy of Hotel Danieli, in order of appearance Facade of Hotel Danieli Archivio Graziano Arici-Arici, Facade of Hotel Danieli and Riva degli Schiavoni with Caffè Orientale – Fondazione per la Fotografia Alinari, Salone dell’Hotel Danieli e Salone dei Dogi, before 1930 – Fondazione per la Fotografia Alinari).

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