Venice: Molino Stucky, Europe's Largest Restoration

A four-year, 200 million-Euro restoration has carefully incorporated its original factory architecture with all the mod-cons of contemporary hostelry, including those, like a rooftop pool, that are new to Venice.

photos by JoAnn Greco
photos by JoAnn Greco

Hilton Molino Stucky: Venice

Year after year, century after century, not much changes in Venice. That’s why everyone in town knows about the new Hilton hotel, an adaptive reuse of a sprawling flour mill that dates to 1895. Located on the string of eight interconnected islands known as Giudecca, just across the way from the main Venetian archipelago, the distinctive red brick complex has been a city landmark for years. A four-year, 200 million-Euro restoration has carefully incorporated its original factory architecture with all the mod-cons of contemporary hostelry, including those, like a rooftop pool, that are new to Venice.

Most of this quiet mile-long island is the domain of residents who enjoy spectacular views of the action across the way while indulging in the sedate comforts of quotidian Venetian life– a cafe here, a barking dog there, a few art galleries. The Stucky anchors the far western side of the island, and includes gracious gardens and courtyards lit by Venice’s signature pink-glassed street lamps. Seemingly a thousand miles from the tourist throngs of Piazza San Marco and the Ponte Rialto– but only a 10-minute boat shuttle ride– this is the perfect place to soak up the real Venice.

An expansive, light-filled lobby and corridors lined with meeting rooms suggest this hotel is primarily a business retreat. Small clusters of clipboard-wielding, three-piece-suited guests second that impression. Where possible, Hilton has kept or reused industrial features from the original mill, in both the guest rooms and the public spaces. These touches include massive wooden ceiling beams, vaulted brick archways, Gothic-mullioned windows, and iron columns.

molinostuckyhiltonA rooftop pool– Venice’s only– offers sweeping views of the city. You may never want to leave, but steps away all of Venice waits to be explored.

Before boating to the mainland, explore little-traversed Giudecca itself, by strolling to the other end of the island where the famous resort, Cipriani, holds court. Along the way, check out the Redentore Church, designed by Palladio, and Harry’s II, the sister cafe to the famous Harry’s American Bar. Panini here will set you back a whopping 27-Euros, but a classic Bellini is a (relatively) cheaper alternative.

Dorsoduro, just across the water,offers two of Venice’s top museums, Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, but otherwise you’ll find relatively uncluttered streets worth exploring– and getting lost in.

Or, for a treat, when you book your stay at the Hilton, ask to be set up for Gondolier Training, a program that grants you as much helm time as you can stand during a three-hour gondola ride (360 Euros per party). Upon completion, you’ll receive a traditional black-and-white striped shirt for your efforts. Information:

Venice is a city of many moods . . . check them all out at this slideshow by Cathleen McCarthy and Mike Tyler.

News: Lonely Planet Shop Debuts

Photo by Lonely Planet
Photo by Lonely Planet

In the “why didn’t we think of that?” department, the world’s first-ever Lonely Planet store has opened as part of Sydney Airport’s $500 million International Terminal redevelopment. “Airports are strange places,” observes Howard Ralley, sales and marketing director at the Australian publisher. “You’re half-excited and half-bored. Everyone waiting for a flight wants to be inspired or have their attention diverted.” In addition to the brand’s 500 books, videos and travel gear, the two-week old shop offers i-touch screens to deliver expert information fro authors, plus the ability to print custom guidebooks from “Pick & Mix” chapters.

The store was designed by Studio Red, a Sydney-based design studio specialising in retail interior design. Inspired by Lonely Planet’s iconic array of guidebooks, the designers have created a graphic montage of book covers which appear to spring from the wall. A world map displays Lonely Planet photographic images from around the world. Information: Lonely Planet

News: New Orleans Hotel Renovation

photo courtesy of Roosevelt Hotel
photo courtesy of Roosevelt Hotel

Summertimes and New Orleans may not be the best of pairs, but this year the slumberous weather heralds the re-opening of the grande dame Roosevelt Hotel. Now a member of the Waldorf-Astoria Collection, the 504-room hotel shines from a $145 million historic renovation which, among other things, introduces a Guerlain spa. Through the summer, rates start at $139 per night and feature a welcome drink for two at  the Sazerac Bar. Book two nights, stay the third free. Information:

Promotion: Miami Spa Month

photo courtesy of GMCVB
photo courtesy of GMCVB

From recently rejuvenated classics like The Fontainebleau and Eden Roc to always-trendy boutique properties like the Delano and Gansevoort to luxury standard-bearers such as the Mandarin Oriental and Ritz-Carlton, Miami and Miami Beach are rich in superb hotels. July offers a great, temptingly affordable, way to sample a few: Miami Spa Month. The promotion, now in its second year, features some 30 participants, offering select options from their spa menus for just $99. At the Pacific Rim-inspired Setai Hotel, for example, choose a 60-minute massage or 60-minute body polish; at the Canyon Ranch– the area’s largest spa– 50-minute choices include a facial. aromatherapy massage, or Abyanga Touch therapy. Information:

Package: Loews "Recessionista Respite"

Loews Hotel: Recessionistas’ Respite. Through Summer ’09

Even in a recession, glamorous girls still want to have fun, so Loews Hotels has created a collection of budget-friendly, uniquely local girlfriend getaways. In Denver, for example, the package includes luxurious Villa Suite accommodations for one night with access to the hotel’s VIP lounge; two $25 American Express Gift Checks to use at the nearby Cherry Creek Shopping Center; an exclusive bag concierge for guests to check shopping bags and have them delivered to their room while continuing to shop, and a “Passport to Shopping” with complimentary valet parking for the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Post-shopping, guests can relax and enjoy complimentary cocktails for two at the hotel’s T-bar and an in-room movie to end the day.

In New York City, guests receive a 15% off “shopping day pass” at Bloomingdale’s complete with a personal shopper, a gift with purchase, and a complimentary beauty make-over. In addition, ladies will receive 20% off all services at the hotel’s Nico Salon, cocktails for two in the hotel’s Library Lounge (2 drinks per person), and complimentary parking or credit for transportation from the airport. Information:

News: Scottsdale Performing Arts Center Reopens

photo courtesy of SCPA
photo courtesy of SCPA

After being closed for more than a year, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will open its newly renovated Virginia G. Piper Theater on Oct. 24. Kicking off the reopening will be ARTrageous , a special benefit performance featuring Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. The event will start the Center’s 2009-10 season, which also includes performances by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Martha Graham Dance Company, jazz musicians Herb Alpert and Arturo Sandoval, and actors Jason Alexander, John Cleese and Martin Short. Improvements to the facility include a new floor and mezzanine, box office, café, public art project, enhanced theater acoustics, lighting, seating and accessibility. www.scottsdaleperformingarts. org

News: Madrid's Hot Summer Nights

Plaza Mayor photo courtesy of Spain Tourism

Spain’s capital welcomes some of the world’s top performing artists during Veranos de la Villa, the “Summer in the City” Festival. A total of 1,166 performances – 65 concerts, 50 plays, 30 dance companies, 200 film screenings and two circuses – will run through August 23.

Now in its 24th year, Madrid’s summer festival includes many free events and, yes, there’ll even be dancing in the streets (July 13-15.)

On June 30, Roberto Benigni takes the stage in “Tutto Dante” at the Sabatini Gardens. George Benson kicks off a series of 27 concerts and ballet performances on July 6 at the Puerta del Ángel. A varied slate of music stars and artistic companies including Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, Kool & the Gang, Seal, Paquito D’Rivera & Chano Dominguez and the Opera Ballet of Munich will perform there through August 3.

Elsewhere, the city’s grand 16th century Plaza Mayor, one of the finest main squares in Europe, will be the setting for a free concert of Liszt and Berlioz on August 5 by the West-Eastern Orchestra Divan with Daniel Barenboim conducting.

World Music is on the “Música del Mundo” program at the city’s 4th century B.C. Templo de Debod (a gift from Egypt) with groups from Greece, Egypt, Morocco and Spain giving nine free concerts, July 19 to August 8.

Through August 31, the open-air Parque de La Bombilla is showcasing movies for every taste ranging from “Che,” “Grand Torino” and “Harry Potter” to “Slum Dog Millionaire” and “Vicky Cristina, Barcelona.”

The entire city is a summer festival with every one of Madrid’s theatres, concert halls and cultural institutions like Teatro Español, Sala Cuarta Pared and the Matadero Madrid, presenting plays by William Shakespeare, Harold Pinter, tango, zarzuela, Spain’s version of lyric opera and much much more. There are also many activities for children as part of the Titirilandia Festival.


Review: Paris Secrets

paris_secretsLovers of the City of Light will lap up the gorgeous photos in Paris Secrets: Architecture, Interiors, Quartiers, Corners
even if the book’s generic copy sets their teeth on edge. Author (and photographer) Janelle McCulloch has an obvious love tor Paris, and she has extensive experience writing about interiors and architecture for a variety of Australian magazines. Yet she holds back here, mining familiar ground in her text and never fully convincing us that Paris is a unique place. No matter. We know that it is, of course. We can never get enough images of Parisian doors, streetlamps, crooked little alleys, and swooping staircases. Her “secrets” — tiny gravel-strewn courtyards, cellar apartments, and used book shops— may be anything but (although she likes some of them so much, she repeatedly runs their photos), but they’re irresistible.

  • Images Publishing
  • $60
  • Buy for: Your favorite Paris aficionado, or as a lavish treat for your coffee table.

Buy here: Paris Secrets: Architecture, Interiors, Quartiers, Corners

News: Wright Synagogue To Open Visitors Center

Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA. Photo courtesy VSBA
Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, outside Philadelphia. Photo by Emily Cooperman

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s final projects, the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, PA,  will open a new visitors center this fall. Designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, the 1,800-square-foot center will make the temple accessible to the public while minimizing the disruption of religious services.

Designed by Wright in 1954 in a quiet suburb located five miles outside Philadelphia, Beth Sholom has a soaring steel roof meant to evoke hands joined in prayer. The synagogue was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007 and attracts thousands of architecture buffs each year.

Our goal is to provide an exciting, informative, and provocative visitor center while respecting the historically sensitive architecture,” says James Kolker, principal architect on the project.

Beth Sholom’s visitor center will exhibit historic photographs, Wright’s ink drawings, and correspondence between him and client Rabbi Mortimer J. Cohen, who instructed Wright to create a truly modern “American Synagogue, a “Mt. Sinai of light …wrought in modern materials.” A 400-square-foot gift shop will sell Frank Lloyd Wright-designed housewares, stationery and jewelry.

Wright never saw the glass, steel and concrete temple; it was completed shortly after his death in 1959. Rich in Jewish symbolism, the building’s roof is translucent during the day and glows like a lantern at night. Of more than 1,000 projects in his 70-year career, Beth Sholom is the only synagogue Wright designed. Information:

Package: Sofitel "Chic Picnic"

Sofitel Luxury Hotels: Chic Picnic. Through Summer ’09.

French flair matches city, park, and food for a great chance to make like the locals. In London, for example, grab some scones and head to Green Park, while in Chicago, pay homage to Gehry at Millenium Park with pizza and prosecco. In Amsterdam, the Centrum de Roos, a rose garden showcasing 70 varieties is just minutes away, and in Munich, beer and a castle are never far away. The package includes three nights accommodation, guaranteed late check-out and a packed picnic basket. The possibilities are endless! Information