Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

High Hopes; Rooftop Pools Are the Best-Kept Secret of Many an Italian City Hotel, Says Lee Marshall

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

High Hopes; Rooftop Pools Are the Best-Kept Secret of Many an Italian City Hotel, Says Lee Marshall

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Marshall

VENICE THERE are those who are put off by that brand name. But this is no ordinary Hilton. The former grain mill that the hotel now occupies dominates the Venetian skyline at the western tip of the Giudecca, the island that curves like a gondola a five-minute waterbus ride south of Venice proper. Built at the end of the 19th century by Swiss-Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Stucky, this Hanseatic Gothic red-brick folly is the single largest man-made structure in the city. Sprawling over its 13 separate buildings, which took over 10 years to restore and convert, the 387-room hotel needs the conference trade to fill all those beds, and you'll often find it full of Nebraskan dentists or Austrian engineers. But despite the corporate feel of some of the downstairs communal areas, the Hilton has two tricks up its sleeve: a full-featured Espace spa, and what must be one of the world's most panoramic rooftop pools, tucked in just underneath the spire of the former mill's distinctive tower. The pool itself is on the dinky side, and you should be up here soon after it opens in the morning to bagsy one of the few sun loungers. Bring plenty of sun-slap too, as heritage regulations mean that the hotel is not allowed to set up parasols. The view from poolside stretches across the southern lagoon and the rooftops of Venice to the belltower of St Mark's. It's magical in the evening too, when the Skyline bar (which has been discovered by Venetians too) is a perfect place for a sunset aperitivo.

Double rooms from [euro]209 B&B (advance purchase internet rate). Giudecca 810, Venice.

www.molinostuckyhilton.com FLORENCE PIAZZA Santa Maria Novella has undergone a transformation in the last few years. Once the domain of seedy one-star hotels and hawkers, the square is now far more in tune with the magnificent Renaissance church that dominates it, with classy new upscale hotels, restaurants and bars turning this into an open-air living room. The Minerva, a comfortable four-star right next to the church, predates the turnaround, as does its rooftop pool -- a stylish Fifties design in travertine marble by post-war modernist architect Edoardo Detti. …

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