It’s pretty tough to top a $750,000 Lamborghini, the birthday gift Kim Kardashian gave to Kanye West on his 35th birthday last June, but the controversial rapper managed to pull it off with a birthday weekend at Venice’s Hotel Cipriani.
This historic hotel whose gardens were once the stomping grounds for Casanova himself was the perfect b-day getaway for the reality star who’d been working long hours (do socialites really work long hours?), dealing with Kris Humphries, her stubborn ex of 72 days, and pining over the prospects of turning 32.
To get to the Cipriani, located just across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square on Giudecca Island, one of a hundred islands that make up Venice, the lovebirds boarded “Shirley,” the sleek mahogany yacht that transports guests of this iconic Orient-Express hotel back and forth to San Marco pier.
They were greeted by Roberto Senigallia, the Cipriani’s charming, flirtatious one-man welcoming committee and introduced to concierge, Gigi Racanelli, who like all the decades-long employees of this venerable property, make you feel like part of the family.
Gabbiano Bartender Walter Bolzonella has even been known to concoct new drinks in your honor. Just ask George Clooney whose film “Good Night, and Good Luck” and his mother, Nina, both have cocktails named after them. The first, the Buona Notte (half a lime, fresh ginger, a spoonful of cane sugar, angostura bitter, vodka, cranberry and crushed ice) was invented in 2005 when Clooney’s film appeared at the Venice Film Festival and Nina’s Special, the one named for his mother, was created six years later, another time Italian fanatic Clooney stayed at the idyllic paradise.
Of course, it’s only fitting. Hotel Cipriani was started by Giuseppe Cipriani, the famous barman who founded Harry’s Bar in 1931. Until then, he worked at Venice’s Hotel Europa where he met Harry Pickering, a young Bostonian whose wealthy family cut him off for too much partying.
Giuseppe, who viewed the young heir’s hobby differently, loaned him 10,000 lire (roughly $5000) to continue his studies. Two years later, long after Cipriani had given up on ever seeing the young student again, Pickering returned to Venice and bequeathed the man who didn’t give up on him, enough money to start Harry’s Bar. It became a favorite of Ernest Hemingway (Cipriani said Hemingway was very generous and wrote more checks than he did words at his private table), Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and other notables of the day. It’s also where the Bellini cocktails and carpaccio were invented.
So, it’s not surprising that in 1958, when Cipriani turned the 15th century Palazzo and gardens where Casanova used to sneak off with daughters of Venetian royalty into a namesake hotel, that celebrities continued to flock. During the Venice Film Festival, in fact, it’s next to impossible to get a room with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Gwyneth Paltrow hogging bookings and,in Paltrow’s case, raving about its “perfect pasta pomodoro.”
Although we don’t know exactly in which of the Capriani’s fabulous suites Kanye sang “Happy Birthday” to his now-pregnant wife, we do know it had a romantic view of the Canaletto overlooking St. Marks, period furniture, guilded ceilings, Murano glass, travertine marble, silk curtains, Fortuny lamps, hand-made stuccos, a personal butler and access to Casanova’s gardens, now filled with Italian sculptures. And we’re pretty sure they had made at least one toast with Bellinis, the famous drink Giuseppe Cipriani created in 1948, named after Renaissance painter Giovanna Bellini and made with fresh white peaches and prosecco.
It’s no wonder Kim tweeted, “Italy is so beautiful. Best birthday ever.”