Historical palaces, hotels and even a casino turn into the ideal setting of the Venice Film Festival extravaganza, but also serve to the ideal backdrop to movies that have turned into real masterpieces. Where Venice has rounded them up for you.
A map of these venues follows
Overlooking the beach of Venice’s Lido, this 5-star resort Hotel Excelsior, built in Moorish style, opened its doors to the public in July 1908 with a legendary opening party, attended by more than 30,000 Venetians and more than 3,000 international guests. Designed with the idea of recreating a luxury Venetian palace, the hotel soon became the destination of choice for the beau monde and Middle-European high society. Over the years, its roster of famous guests has included Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman and the Aga Khan. The first edition of the Venice Film Festival was held on its terrace in 1932 and, today, with its 197 rooms and suites and exclusive private beaches, it continues to be ‘the place to be’ during the Film Festival. An interesting fact related to the theme of celluloid. One of the cult scenes of ‘Once Upon a Time in America’, where the two starring actors dine in a luxurious restaurant reserved exclusively for them, was shot in the Excelsior’s sumptuous Sala degli Stucchi.
Palazzo del Cinema
Famous Italian film director Federico Fellini once commented that “Entering Venice’s Palazzo del Cinema is like passing a final exam.” This imposing modernist building, opened in August 1937, was renovated several times over the years to adapt to the requirements of the increasing need for space. Today, the only remaining elements of the original building are its two rounded sides and lateral facades. Designed to accommodate up to 1,032 people, the Sala Grande – where the main screenings and award ceremonies of the Festival are held – underwent a series of transformations. The final phase, completed in 2011, involved a radical restoration of its interiors.
The monumental Palazzo del Casinò was built in 1938 and designed in Italian rationalist style, typical of the Fascist era. In stark contrast to its austere travertine stone façade, its spacious interiors were decorated with marble, mosaics and artistic Murano glass, and were used for gaming and entertainment. Its entrance, for those arriving from Venice, consisted of a long corridor decorated with mirrors and curtains connected to a monumental staircase and elevators. The Casinò was closed at the end of the 1990s, and, since that time, its spaces have mainly been used for festival-related press services, including press conferences and screenings for the public and industry members.
Hotel des Bains
Another hotel which, at the beginning of the 20th century, irrevocably changed the face of the Lido, becoming an integral part of that aura of glamour with which Venice’s Film Festival is associated. Built in 1900, in Italian Liberty style, and despite being closed several times due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the Des Bains was chosen as a set for a number of famous films including Anthony Minghella’s ‘English Patient’ and Luchino Visconti’s ‘Death in Venice’, a film adaption of the melancholy novel by Thomas Mann, who was also an aficionado of the hotel. In the last scene of the film, we see the lead actor slumped on a deck chair, silhouetted in the background by the luxurious white and blue beach huts that made this stretch of beach famous. Although the hotel is now closed, its communal rooms decorated in deco style, its art nouveau furniture and its long beach, reminiscent of the melancholy atmosphere of the 1930s, inevitably transport us to that period of intellectual vibrancy and exclusive luxury which have now been lost.
Address: Lungomare Guglielmo Marconi, 17
GPS: 45.41339, 12.37474