Italian Style in Dubai – Palazzo Versace

Bringing la dolce vita to the United Arab Emirates, Palazzo Versace is the latest addition to Dubai’s hotel-studded shoreline, in the upcoming Culture Village. To list but a few of the hotel’s highlights, Palazzo Versace has four restaurants, a jazz bar designed by Quincy Jones, three pools, two Versace shops and is home to the first Versace branded and run Spa.

This is the international fashion house’s second hotel, the first opening 16 years ago on Australia’s Golden Coast. Those past 16 years were wisely spent by Versace, carefully planning every tiny detail to ensure luxury, style and sophistication abound in their latest venture. The hotel has 215 rooms, 69 of which are suites, plus an extra 169 residences for sale, should you want to keep a piece of the hotel just for yourself.

As you may expect from the fashion house, entering Palazzo Versace is a sensory overload. Designed to recreate a 16th century Italian palazzo, the lobby is magnificent, as indeed is the whole hotel. As you step through the grand doors, you’ll see hanging from the high ceiling, the Golden Breeze Lighting Sculpture. This chandelier is made with 3000kg of hand-blown glass from the Czech Republic, and was inspired by Versace’s floral prints to appear as if undulati in a soft breeze. Below this delicate sculpture is a vast mosaic of Versace’s iconic logo, the Medusa’s head.

Despite these eye-catching pieces, one of the first things you’ll notice when entering the lobby is, unusually, the smell (in a good way). The hotel manager worked with leading perfumiers to adapt one of Versace’s signature fragrances so that it could fill the hotel interiors. Despite the unadulterated ostentation of the lobby, with huge amounts of detail and a rainbow of rich colours, it remains sophisticated and exemplary model of refined Italian grandeur.

A few steps down a set of white Carrera marble stairs is Mosiaco bar which overlooks the main pool area and bay beyond. Here you’ll find the grandest and most elaborate mosaic in the hotel. Following one of Gianni Versace’s (the founder) original designs for the fashion house, each tile of 1.5 million-piece mosaic was hand cut from naturally-coloured stone, and laid by the renowned Italian company Fantini: it’s the same workshop that created many of the mosaics in Gianni’s homes, including all of those in his Miami residence.

The hotel is spacious inside and out, particularly for Dubai. Each wing of the hotel has its own outdoor pool (three in total) and an adjoining lounge area with elegant recliners and canopied day beds and manned by an expert team of staff. Shaded walkways connect the three areas, passing through beautifully landscaped gardens which enjoy unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek and skyline.

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No opportunity was missed to put the Versace stamp on the bedrooms. You could spend all day searching for Medusa heads or more subtle references to the brand that you may initially miss, such as the Greek key-patterned cornicing in the bedrooms which replicates the border of the Versace logo. From the curtains and chairs, to the bedlinens, each piece of furniture was designed and tailor-made by the House of Versace exclusively for Palazzo Versace Dubai. The seating and beds are covered in specially-designed fabrics inspired by the trompe l’oeil wall mouldings that once decorated the palazzos of Italy’s elite; in either turquoise, blue or salmon with gold details, they are exquisite, both to view and sleep under.

Of the hotel’s four restaurants two are Italian. Amalfi is an outdoor eatery by the pool in the west wing. The chefs here use traditional, rustic cooking techniques to prepare authentic Mediterranean dishes, including healthy salads and crispy thin pizzas. In contrast, Vanitas is a more formal restaurant; the fish here is delicious and a must during your visit. Like in the rest of the hotel, no cost was spared when decorating the space. In collaboratation with Rosenthal, Versace created an exclusive porcelain range with gold Medusa heads boldly emblazoned on the centre of the stylish blue and white platters. This room is perhaps the most successful at recreating an Italian palazzo; delicate trompe l’oeil motifs adorn the ceiling and walls, and a hand-painted fresco depicting a rural idyll painted by the Enrico Frangi Company from Milan, covers the entire far wall.

Giardino offers a variety of cuisines from around the world; have sushi for starters, masala for mains and profiteroles for pudding. While dining here, be sure to check out the waiters’ and waitresses’ uniforms that were inspired by Jennifer Lopez’s Versace ‘jungle’ dress for the Grammy’s. Finally, there’s Enigma which, to use one of fashion’s favourite words, is ephemeral; every three months, a different Michelin-starred chef takes charge of the kitchens and creates an entirely new menu and dining experience.

The hotel also has four bars, the best of which is Q’s; the creation of  music legend Quincy Jones. Jones’ first ever bar, it serves a selection of cocktails with witty names based on some of Jones’ previous ventures, such as the Fresh Prince or Off the Wall, in an intimate, seductive setting that plays host to an ever-changing schedule of musicians featuring next generation stars, all chosen by Quincy himself.

Then there is the spa. This is the first spa designed and operated by the fashion house, although hopefully the not the last. Located on the ground floor, it features dedicated male and female thermal suites each containing a pool, sauna and steam room, a relaxation lounge, spacious changing facilities and a luxury Moroccan hammam. There are seven luxurious treatment rooms and one private suite, complete with its own Jacuzzi and monsoon rain shower. While following the same general aesthetic of the rest of the hotel, the spa’s interiors are more refined and subtle to create a relaxing and calming space with dark lighting, simple black Italian marble floors and elegantly understated, cream panelled walls in the changing area.

Their treatment list is long and varied; from spa-staples like facials, massages and manicures to specialised wraps, reflexology and hammam therapies, of which there are four to choose from. Their staff are incredibly well trained, and what makes the spa so exceptional.

The Palazzo is, or will be when the area is finished, in the centre of Dubai’s Culture Village on Dubai Creek. A major perk of this location for travellers is that it is less than a 20-minute drive from the airport, so you can get from passport control to pool in less than 30 minutes. Within a year or two the Culture Village will house the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library and the Dubai Museum of Middle East Modern Art (MOMEMA), as well as numerous other smaller galleries, restaurants and bars. It will be a vibrant area and at the heart of it will be Palazzo Versace Dubai.

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