VENICE 1822: Dal Niel opens Danieli Adrian Mourby

VENICE 1822: Dal Niel opens Danieli

( words)

Adrian Mourby in front of the George Sand room.


On 24 October 1822 an entrepreneur from Friuli in the Veneto opened up the piano nobile of Palazzo Dandalo to the public. Giuseppe Dal Niel had had a novel idea. The mediaeval palazzo stood only a few doors down from the ever-popular Doge’s palace so here on Dandolo's imposing first floor he would accommodate paying guests.
By 1824, business was good enough to convince Dal Niel that there was a permanent market for such a hotel in Venice. He bought the entire palazzo, lavishly restoring it as he converted it into a hotel. As Venetians had already nicknamed this busy little man Danieli, that was the name that Dal Niel gave to his new venture.

Venice was not an ideal tourist attraction in the 1820s.  In 1797 Napoleon had forcibly dissolved the Venetian trading republic and in 1815 Venice had been handed over to Hapsburg Austria at the Congress of Vienna. Many palaces were no longer being repaired by Venice’s impoverished aristocracy.

Dal Niel threw himself into refurbishment and made many changes to the building. As a palazzo for the nobility,  the building’s main entrance had to be to the side, on Rio del Vin for gondola access. But as a hotel it needed a door directly on to the quayside of Riva degli Schiavoni for general access.

Dal Niel remodelled the Schiavoni facade to create a Gothic doorway with a superb views across to the island of San Giorgio di Maggiore. In the 1820s and 30s shops with doors on to the quay took up the rest of the ground floor (these were later incorporated into the hotel's spacious drawing room and Bar Dandolo). Moreover in the 1820s guests would have mounted an open staircase to their rooms on the  piano nobile. This courtyard was subsequently roofed over in glass for greater comfort.

As Venice’s first commercial hotel, the Danieli received many famous guests. Richard Wagner who visited Venice six times often put himself up at the hotel until he had found a suitable apartment. He subsequently claimed that the lonely song of a gondolier inspired the opening of his Tristan und Isolde. Charles Dickens also stayed the Danieli describing the Venetian gondola that ferried him to its doors as "a black boat with a black cabin that floated up a phantom street of water". 

But the very first celebrity of note to arrive was the cross-dressing French writer George Sand. Sand was later the mistress of Frederic Chopin but when she arrived in January 1834 it was in the company of her latest lover, the poet Alfred de Musset. Venice was a relatively cheap place to elope to in those days. Sadly, although the couple arrived during the period preceding Lent known as “Carnevale” [which had been celebrated for centuries], the festival had been banned by the Hapsburgs.

Dancing and the wearing of masks were outlawed at this time on moral grounds. Venice in the 1830s had little to divert its celebrity guests.  Musset did manage to quickly lose a lot of Sand's money at the Casino however - and then fall ill from a combination of nervous exhaustion and alcohol.  The couple stayed in what is now the Danieli’s Room 10. George Sand nursed her highly-strung lover for a few weeks here, before losing patience with him and running off with his doctor. Nevertheless the hotel has gallantly stencilled “Alfredo de Musset e George Sand MDCCCXXXIII-XXXIV” on one of the interior walls.

“Alfredo de Musset e George Sand MDCCCXXXIII-XXXIV”

Many great names have stayed at the Danieli ever since, including Honoré de Balzac and Marcel Proust, Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Salvador Dali and the Burton-Taylors. Photos of many of these are displayed in the top-floor Bar Terrazza Danieli. 

In the twentieth century the (now) Royal Hotel Danieli became the model for many palazzi that were turned into commercial hotels in Venice. In 1906 the Royal Danieli was purchased by Count Giuseppe Volpi to become a part of his CIGA hotel chain - "Compagnia Italiana Grandi Alberghi". 

Then in 1948 the buildings that separated Palazzo Dandolo from the Doge’s prison (Palazzo delle Prigioni) were demolished and a modern extension, known as the Danielino was erected with a ballroom on the ground floor and bedrooms above.

In 2005 the hotel passed into the ownership of the Italian Statuto Group who brought in the renowned hotel architect Jacques Garcia to create the possibly most glamorous restaurant in Venice. Its nineteenth century decor and views over Bacino San Marco are unparalleled. Since 2016 it has been managed by Marriott International, under the brand name of The Luxury Collection. 

The Danieli has been enjoying a year of celebrations leading up to 24 October 2024. 

I wish it well on its two-hundredth birthday with every confidence that it will be around for two hundred more years.

Hotel Danieli

General Manager Claudio Staderini

More about the hotel: Here

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