All is gold at The Merchant of Venice Spa
By Hannah Norman
The human body allegedly contains 0.2 milligrams of gold. However, as anyone who has ventured within the indulgently luxurious recesses of The Merchant of Venice Spa can attest, there is a way of increasing your gold count without robbing a bank and ingesting the spoils.
The luxury fragrance brand’s eponymous Spa is set in the lush, leafy surrounds of the San Clemente Palace Kempinski Hotel on Isola San Clemente in Venice, just a short boat ride away from the throngs of tourists flocking to St. Mark’s Square – although it might as well be a whole world away. Whilst here, I would urge you to try a revolutionary face mask that sees 11 layers of 24 carat gold applied directly to the skin, in what is surely one of the most luxurious facials in the world. It is undeniably indulgent. And it is incredibly relaxing – particularly when I am treated to a neck and shoulder massage whilst my therapist waited for the gold to work its magic. “Pure bliss” doesn’t even begin to cover this most spoiling of beauty treatments.
The anti-ageing properties of gold mean that, when it is applied to the skin though massage, it penetrates deeply into the layers to produce several noticeable results, including reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and rings under the eyes, and increasing the brightness and overall glow of the skin. It is also said to stimulate skin cell renewal. As further “proof,” for want of a better word, even Cleopatra is rumoured to have slept with a golden face mask to help enhance her beauty (albeit perhaps a little less sophisticated than what you’ll enjoy in Venice). And if it’s good enough for Cleopatra….
The facial is combined with two serums – one pre and one post the application of the layers of gold. Consisting of a base of Vitamin E, this ensures that the micro-active particles of the gold are fully absorbed by the skin.
The gold itself comes courtesy of the last gold-beater left in Europe, whose workshop is located in Cannaregio in the north of Venice. A highly skilled craft, master artisan Marino Menegazzo of Mario Berta Battiloro transforms gold into ultra-slim sleeves of gold leaf by hammering it (all by hand). The family-run business has sold its gold for use in St. Mark’s Campanile, the Vatican and (it is whispered) even the Kremlin. It is sold as edible gold to the food industry, and is used in the cosmetics industry – not least in The Merchant of Venice’s own range of Fiammes (or “Flames”), pictured above. Comprising twelve extrait de parfums, these wonderfully luxurious perfumes are bottled in a vial of finely decorated twisted glass, with the overall design sealed by a glittering cap sparkling with Battiloro’s gold particles.
Back in the comforting confines of the Spa, it’s so tempting to flick through the impressive spa menu. The treatments – which range from an Aromatherapy Massage to something called The Secrets of Isabella Cortese, which turns out to be a stress-relieving treatment involving lots of lovely lavender essential oil – are all created in accordance with ancient oriental traditions imported into Venice by the city’s merchants throughout the centuries. Each treatment has subsequently been thoroughly researched and crafted in order to lead the mind and body on a unique journey to uncover the secrets of Venetian perfumery.
It’s perhaps then no surprise that The Merchant of Venice Spa holds the coveted title of being the Best Hotel Spa in not just Italy, but in Europe – a double accolade announced at this year’s annual international (and let’s not forget, industry-recognised) World Spa Awards in Dubai. There really is a touch of gold around this Spa….