You are in Venice, and a choice has to be made. Is it pizza or dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant? I chose the former so I could share my past pizza-loving experience with my sister, Cheryl, who traveled all the way to Italy with me to stay at the Metropole Venice. Upon our waterbus arrival and short walk to the right on the waterfront, past vendors selling selfie-sticks and human statues intent on earning a few euros from passersby, our goal was to find our hotel, quickly unpack, freshen up and dart through the alleyways of Venice in exploration of the many nooks and crannies host to eateries, food and retail shops. I had to introduce Cheryl to what I deem to be the most romantic spot on earth: The Rialto Bridge. Yes, it is covered with souvenir shops and tourists posing with outstretched arms as they steady to take iPhone selfies, but we were able to look beyond the capitalistic aspects and focus on the beauty of this majestic stone structure and the quintessential Venetian gondoliers singing and paddling below in the lagoon.
Past aromas of Italian red sauce stirring our appetites, and the lure of stopping for a glass of wine as we watched couples seated at the outdoor cafes enjoying wines of the region, we had to resist the temptations. At least for an hour.
Once we were led into the entrance of the Metropole Venice, however, we took our time to feast our eyes on the glamorous décor and design throughout. Is this a place for royalty? Celebrity? Beyond our grasp? I mean, really, there’s a separate gate for private taxis. Fortunately, it was none of the above, but offered an extraordinary interior design that mixed comfort with grandeur, which is fitting within the essence of Italy.
Until we were officially toured through the Metropole Venice, a member of Preferred Hotel & Resorts, we were not aware of its history. It seems it was a former convent and music school, with classes in the Oriental Bar taught to orphans by none other than Antonio Vivaldi. This is Italy, after all. In fact, two of the former chapel’s original columns are intact in the Oriental Bar, where tea time is served. With your imagination, it is easy to imagine a candlelit atmosphere with music lessons serenading Venetians who happen to stroll by as they head to the harbor front.
“Many people come to see the Vivaldi Chapel or are on tours that point to the Metropole because of this,” we are told.
Additionally, we hadn’t known Sigmund Freud once stayed at “Casa Kirsch” – its former name. We only knew it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Beggiato until their Venetian daughter Gloria took over the reins, and we knew the hotel showcased collections of corkscrews, bookends, purses, fans (upper floor), visiting card holders and crucifixes.
“This is a family that collects lots of things,” we are told. “They really appreciate antiques, and people come see her [Gloria Beggiato] for this.”
Gloria’s father began the collection with corkscrews, following a Sotheby’s auction of vintage wines 30 years earlier. During that auction, he bought 40 corkscrews and began a collection that has grown to almost 400 corkscrews that may be viewed from the lobby floor to the first floor. Last year, an international group of corkscrew collectors (yes!) gathered at the Metropole Venice for approximately three days in the Congress Room for trading.
And then there’s the crucifix collection, which is the largest collection of crucifixes in Italy, and may be viewed on the lobby floor and the third floor. Mr. Beggiato’s travels, coupled with his network of people who collect crucifixes (in Naples, particularly), led him to collecting many of these interesting specimens in various materials that include wood, ivory, coral reef, and bronze patina.
What you will not find in the Metropole Venice are high ceilings or paintings. It’s all about the collectibles and interior design. Oh, and the culinary experience at The Met, where I never did get to enjoy the theatrical setting and taste the Michelin-star offering. Oh, the drama. By the way, I’ve heard The Met is the only restaurant in Venice with a Michelin star.
Alas, I chose our one night of a special dinner at a hotel on the other side of the waterfront, which wasn’t so special. In fact, it turned out to be a mistake, beginning with an awkward hour spent in the lounge, a mix-up in our arrival time to the restaurant, followed by an annoying dinner we couldn’t enjoy with fruit flies hovering and dropping into our drinks to the point where I had to lay a napkin over my glass and continuously swat during our meal.
Meanwhile, back at The Met, the glory of romance lives on in a theater stage setting and one-star Michelin chef cooking special Venetian dishes. The only thing more enticing is the wines extraordinaire to taste — it’s all I can think of when I think about going back to Venice, and my only wish is that I could travel through time and choose The Met this time ’round.
Venice in itself is a form of time travel, though, with stories of its structures in religion, art and government that reflect on a time passed in all its authenticity – all selling points for the intrepid traveler.
Although we enjoyed our water bus ride to the Lido, and I got to reunite with my favorite pizza parlor, if I could do it all over again I would make it a point to dine at The Met. At least on our second evening in Venice.
For more information, visit www.HotelMetropole.com. Additionally, Concordia is the sister hotel of Hotel Metropole and offers a partial view of San Marco square. Check out this video to see for yourself.