admin On maggio - 29 - 2015

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Venice is populated by phantasmal isles unknown to most tourists. Some are abandoned, others are inhabited by less than ten families, but by and large most are ignored by travellers who would rather explore the City of Bridges and Masks.
Pietro Rusconi – Executive Assistant Manager at St.Regis Venice San Clemente Palace – unveils how the lagoon is being repopulated and brought back to its glorious past. In this Exclusive Interview he shares how San Clemente island has finally returned to its original principle foundation of welcoming travellers for the recovery of the soul and spirit.


St. Regis in San Clemente sets a great example of how Venice’s lagoon is being reclaimed, what were the premises of this operation?

The lagoon of Venice is where history began, it started on the islands of Mazzorbo and Torcello, which were then abandoned to set up the new city by the Rialto bridge. That’s how Venice really started: in the lagoon. At the very beginning of its history it was a thriving area, there were a lot of islands – such as San Clemente – offering hospitality to pilgrims, to large delegations. When it was built it was an important lieu of pilgrimage because it had the relics of Sant’Agnano, disciple of San Marco, the patron of Venice. At the time it was run and managed by monks; with the passing of time it turned into a monastery. It stopped providing hospitality and was purchased by the Camaldolese monks and the founder was St. Romuald. You may still see the frescos on the walls. Prior to this there were the Lateran priests. In the 1300s the island went through difficult financial times, and donations stopped, until the Camaldolese order bought it, renovated the church and San Clemente started thriving again. Hence, San Clemente started as a hotel in the XI century. It was a stopover for crusaders going to the Holy Land. In the course of history it welcomed very prestigious people, like Gian Galeazzo Sforza, and it is now going back to its original mission, of being a hospitable place for travellers coming to the city of Venice. The restoration took several years. The area of the Acquerello Restaurant was built in 1885, so it’s more recent than the primordial core of the Romanesque Monastery, that dates back to the XI century.

Are luxury hotels the key to restore Venice’s abandoned locations?

It definitely helps and it is important for travellers to have an experience in the lagoon to fully understand the culture and traditions of Venice, rather than coming for a couple of nights in San Marco. I think it’s a new opportunity to experience Venice in an entirely different way, plus it’s so pleasant to get away from the tourist crowds, which are becoming more and more overwhelming, year after year. It’s a perfect compromise because you’re in a beautiful resort, you feel miles away from human traffic but you are just a few minutes away from Piazza San Marco, so you may come and go at your pleasure and visit the city, then return to San Clemente to enjoy the pool, play tennis, explore the gardens. Aside from hotels the city needs to bring the lagoon back to life also via different experiences, like it’s currently occurring with the university in San Servolo that hosts global conferences, or in Murano where international artists have taken base to learn the art of glass making, or San Lazzaro which won the Biennale Award and also has one of the most ancient libraries with important manuscripts kept by the Mekhitar Armenian Catholic monks, who produce a delicious rose jam from the blossoms on the island. These are just a few examples of the hidden treasures of the Venice lagoon.


How is St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace aligned with the other Starwood Hotels and how does it distinguish itself?

San Clemente Palace follows a set of guidelines and signature services of St. Regis, such as the Butler Service, the Afternoon Tea, Champagne Sabering, The Lagoon Blood Mary, which was invented in the New York hotel but we have our own version in Venice, which is done with gin, rather than vodka. Something that can be experienced here is the setting of an exclusive resort within an intact ecosystem. The church is very important in the lagoon ecosystem, because it’s the only one that maintained its original plan, it was embellished through the years in the 1600s. Some may not be aware of how beautiful Venice was even before it was built: the ecosystem is fantastic, nature, light, sunsets even in winter time, you see the mountains and birdlife. It’s fascinating. Early Venetians got to experience this. Today we’ve forgotten it, so it’s nice to be able to see it again.


This year in Italy nutrition has an important focus through Milan’s Expo, how is St. Regis handling the topic of food?

In connection to Milan’s Expo, Venice proposes Acquae Expo, which St. Regis has embraced through the food service we provide with seafood and all dishes connected to the water world, proposed by our Pool Bar and Restaurant, as well as the St. Regis Bar (indoors and outdoors) and our fine dining restaurant – the Acquerello. There is also a grouping of artists that has created an itinerary of art in some star hotels, including St. Regis, and they will display an installation by a young artist, combined to a live performance that will take place in the course of several days, to which the chef will combine something inspired by the theme of water and food. The installation, located in the ancient cloister of our hotel, references monastic life and the idea of communion. The hotel’s Executive Chef, Roberto Dal Seno, will create a specialty based on hand-made bread. This will take place in September. Now we are focused on the Biennale and we are hosting the works of Igor Mitoraj, amongst others.


What upcoming events is San Clemente Palace hosting?

In a few days we have a Biennale week-end and friends and celebrities will be coming from all over the world for the gala dinner with 120 guests. After the dinner we have a dancing soirée and the following day there will be a special brunch, followed by a VIP tour of the Giardini and the Arsenale.


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