Country houses for sale

Join the Party

There is no better place to enjoy a hangover than Venice, the city which refuses to sink. In fact, the Venetian islands have become the latest party hotspot for international jetsetters. Elton John has snapped up a house on Giudecca, a four-minute boat ride from the Piazza San Marco, and the island chosen by Signor Cipriani for his famous hotel, now the bolt-hole of the rich and famous.

One of the most instantly recognizable views in the world is that of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs. It is also the view from the terrace of the Palazzo Sernagiotto, an exquisitely renovated 19th-century palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal, built by the Italian architect Benvenuti. The terrace, which can seat up to 50 guests, is the focal point of the five-bedroom house which has a private mooring and a columned entrance on the Grand Canal, leading through the main hall to a rare and lovely garden. The Classical interior was created by the owner, with the help of international designer Peter Marino. Most importantly, perhaps, the state-of-the-art kitchen can serve up to 150 guests at a time. The Palazzo Sernagiotto is for sale through Venetian Apartments (020-8878 1130) at ?5.9 million.

The same agents are handling the sale of the extraordinary 15th-century Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel, one of Venice’s most important Gothic houses, which has changed hands only six times in its 600-year history. Built over a pre-existing Byzantine building, the Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel stands alongside the church of the Miracoli, with its own private water entrance on the Rio di San Canciano. The palazzo, which surrounds a main central courtyard with a central well and two exterior Gothic staircases, has two splendid façades with characteristic Gothic windows, two internal courtyards and an entrance door unique in Venice, with its original wood carving and 15th-century door knocker.

Originally built for the Gradenigo family, the palazzo was bought in 1473 by Nicolò Soranzo, the Procurator of St Mark’s, whose family lived there for almost two centuries. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was owned by the Venier and Sanudo families until in 1627, it was bought by the Van Axel family, wealthy textile merchants from Ghent, who became Venetian patriarchs in 1665. It remained the Van Axels’ family home until 1920, when the antiquarian Conte Dino Barozzi bought and restored it, filling the house with magnificent, mainly 15th-century, furniture and paintings. It has been the home of the present owners since the mid-1950s.

Conscious of the palazzo’s historical and architectural importance, the owners want to pass it on to individuals or organizations who are capable of sustaining it, and are offering the vast, 2,900sq m (31,000sq ft) palazzo either as a whole, or as three separate apartments-two piano-nobile floors and a top-floor penthouse. The first piano nobile measures 425sq m, the second, 565sq m and the third-floor penthouse, 735sq m. The asking price for the whole is ?16 million.

Everything needed for the bash of a lifetime-from antique furniture to wall tapestries, even the knives and forks-is included in the ?13.5m asking price of the glorious Château de Saint-Germain, a restored medieval fortress near Limoges in south-west France. The original château was built by the Foucaulds, a French Protestant noble family, in 1182, and has an ingenious terraced water system which feeds the moat surrounding the château, and is probably of Roman origin. The powerful Foucauld clan were embroiled in all sorts of conflicts during their 600-year tenure of the château, which was rebuilt a number of times. The present structure dates from the second quarter of the 16th century.

The Foucauld line died out in the late 1700s, and the Château de Saint-Germain was sold a number of times until, in 1860, it was bought by the French architect Pierre Berthomier as a vast, abandoned, ruin. Over a period of 20 years, Berthomier restored it stone by stone, and by 1886 it was once again habitable.

Miraculously, among the ruins, he found the grand staircase, the carved entrance and three of the main five towers. Drawing on local architectural tradition, he added the slate roof, and the cupolas on top of the towers.

The present owner, James Tsehki, who bought the Château de Saint-Germain in 1999, has completely refurbished it, successfully re-creating the original 16th-century interior as a magnificent family home for contemporary living. The selling agents are FPDSavills (020-7824 9030).

In contrast to the medieval splendour of the Château de Saint-Germain, the ultra-contemporary Villa la Paz at Mijas, near Malaga, is one of the best-known venues on the Marbella party circuit. Created by restaurateur John Miller from ‘a skeleton which had been sitting there for 10 years’, the villa stands high on a hill-top near Mijas village, surrounded by landscaped gardens, fountains and water features. The ‘Miami-style’ house-every bit as colourful as its owner-has three reception rooms, a study, two kitchens, a gymnasium, indoor plunge pool and guest Jacuzzi, five bedroom suites, numerous large terraces, a covered outdoor dining room and an oval swimming pool. There is a separate guest house, as well as accommodation and a grooming area for pets. The guide price for the Villa La Paz is ?3m through Aylesford (020-7351 2383).