Bianca Arrivabene’s Venetian vision

Bianca Arrivabene is the Deputy deputy Chairman chairman of Christie’s Italy and co-founder of Giberto, the Murano glassware brand she launched with her husband, Giberto. She lives in Venice on the top floor of the Palazzo Papadopoli, which she painstakingly restored to its former grandeur. The lower floors were converted to an Aman hotel, which opened in 2013. Here, Bianca shares with ABASK her thoughts on gifts and design objects to cherish.

View Bianca’s Future Heirlooms

What for you makes a future heirloom?

Objects that are beautiful but practical too. I would love a zillion different snake plates by Laboratorio Paravicini. They are exquisite – fantastical, even – and make me dream while eating at boring dinner parties. Ginori bowls in every colour, size and pattern are also great multitasking objects, able to serve pasta, a receptacle for keys in the hallway or soap in your bathroom. Smythson’s backgammon board reminds me of my childhood but I also love playing with my own children.

What’s the best present you have received?

I live in Venice so the boat, TOPA, which my husband surprised me with, means riding the canals when the waters are high. It means freedom, looking at architecture from another angle, 15 minutes to beach walks and swimming on a sunny winter’s day.

What is the worst?

Presents given without heart.

What do you consider when choosing a gift?

Usually the gift reminds me of someone, or it is something I really like and I think who would also appreciate it. Yesterday at the flea market in San Giovanni e Paolo I bought 3 little ceramic hangers from the 50s for a friend who collects ceramics.

What is the best gift you have ever given?

When I was 21, I bought Gibi, who at the time was my fiancé, a Rolex watch with all my savings that he still wears today and remains his favourite.

Palazzo Papadopoli

Instantly recognisable by the two obelisks which sit on its roof, the Palazzo Papadopoli is an imposing sight, built around 1560 and significant enough to have been painted by Paolo Veronese and been drawn by JW Turner. Its 21,000 square foot interior makes it one of the biggest private palazzi on the Grand Canal, certainly one of the grandest in Venice. 

Arrivabene moved in after getting married and got stuck in to restoring the palazzo -  dealing with the daily combat of salt air and humidity which eats up walls and 18th century terrazzo floors. “We never lived in the grand rooms downstairs, there was only one flat at the top, where we still live today.”

With the help of friends and several local technicians and craftsmen, they renovated the belle étage in 2005.  In the grand rooms, the Murano chandeliers which hadn’t been turned on for 60 years were lit once more. “Of course, I always knew it was special, but for the first time, I really saw the house come to life and could really appreciate its layout, two staircases, the entrance on the small canal, the gardens, the light.” 

Her husband’s shared aesthete’s eye meant he was always going to Murano tinkering with things he had found in his attic and designing glassware with a contemporary take. Friends kept asking to have some and so, 17 years ago he launched Giberto.

“What you get to create in Murano is about challenge and beauty: challenge because everything usually starts with a ‘no’ in Murano …and then eventually, you get there. It’s beauty too because the whole process is beautiful, arriving by the vaporetto in the fog, working with the maestri who are rough and strong yet creating something so delicate in their hands.”