Venice, Italy

Isola di San Clemente

The perfect backdrop for romance


By Caroline Tapp-McDougall

Step back in time, into a glamorous, refurbished 15th century monastery that’s wrapped by lush private gardens and lapping waters. Her ancient inner courtyards and tiny church hark back to days gone by when monks crossed the historic waters to take up their solitary residence on this remarkable island.

Today, the San Clemente is still one of the most unforgettably private places in Venice … so close and yet so far away from the daily hustle and bustle of the waterbuses and taxis on the crowded canals.

hf-venice2A great escape
Just minutes away by boat from St. Mark’s Square, the centuries old island park that the San Clemente Palace Kempinski now calls home is a magnificent oasis of gentile calm and tranquil repose. Wide corridors lead to the 190 rooms and suites with high Venetian ceilings, Murano chandeliers, grand furnishing and jaw-dropping vistas across the iconic lagoon. We have the palace to ourselves as there’s nary a soul to be seen, except for discreet butlers, until dinnertime. By then a few, impeccably dressed couples are wandering through the gardens. Others gather pierhf-venice4-side as the sun goes down for a unique cocktail prepared by barman Alessio Vanturini.

For lovers only
Sitting down for dinner on Acquerello’s huge terrace, the sights of the famous Piazza San Marco are as impressive as the cuisine. Located in the picturesque churchyard, the restaurant is set beside one of the island’s private piers. As the waters of the lagoon rise and fall hf-venice5with the passing of the larger watercraft and spill over onto the foot of the terrace, we sip fine wine and enjoy pasta dishes like never before. Chef describes them as tradition Venetian recipes, but the menu is also Mediterranean inspired. Either way, we’re in heaven.

The heart of the island during the summer season is, of course, the hidden swimming pool, with La Dolce Restaurant tucked in beside it. Lunches in this delightful garden setting combine exquisite antipasti, salads and entrees from the grill and wood-fire oven. Or, if you prefer, find your favourite spot to spread a blanket for a champagne picnic on the doorstep of Venice, aka the San Clemente Palace garden. There’s also the informal atmosphere of Insieme Restaurant, which opens only for breakfast. Worth getting up for, it serves a delicious blend of continental cuisine. Four authentic ancient tapestries enhance Insieme’s decor, and it is also possible to enjoy breakfast in the picturesque monastery churchyard.

Heavenly hideaway
Planning a wedding? We can’t think of a more romantic spot for tying the knot. And for art lovers, San Clemente Island is a piece of art in itself—the perfect retreat after a day spent visiting one of the world’s finest international contemporary arts exhibitions. From May to November every year, Venice is an art lover’s paradise and, as this is the Biennial, it promises to be all the more captivating.