Venice’s historic private palazzo hotels are uniquely charming and offer some of the most unusual places to stay in the city. One of the best, and most original, the stylish Hotel Metropole on the Riva, overlooking the Lagoon, is one of the rare private hotels in Venice that is rated five-star—and it is a celebrated, individual and intriguing private palace in which to stay and absorb the full glory of this beautiful, sensual city.
Run by the creative and discerning Gloria Beggiato, the third-generation owner, the Metropole houses the Beggiato family’s eclectic collection of antiques, it has a beautiful, palm-shaded private garden with a 14th-century well, and it is home to Met, one of Venice’s top restaurants.
It has a picture postcard location on the wide promenade of the Riva degli Schiavoni, round the corner from the Piazza San Marco, facing the Bacino San Marco and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on its island. Vivaldi was the choirmaster at the church next door, La Pietà. It is but a few minutes’ walk from the Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s Palace.
The Metropole has been an hotel since 1895, but the stylish palazzo itself dates back to pre-1500. Guests have included such luminaries as Marcel Proust, Sigmund Freud, and Thomas Mann when he was writing Death in Venice. In modern times Gloria Beggiato has transformed the Metropole into a chic boutique hotel without losing any of its original charm.
She focuses on even the tiniest details, from exhibitions of antique fans, corkscrews, nutcrackers, crucifixes, fragrant candles and pearl handbags, to the colours of the fresh flowers in the drawing rooms. Her aim is to maintain the ambience of a private palazzo, embracing the exotic nature of the Metropole, from its luxuriously eccentric guest bedrooms to the Moorish bar where now her guests sip their Bellinis but was once a chapel where Vivaldi taught music—and composed masterpieces including the ‘Four Seasons’.
The guest rooms, just 67 of them, range from classical Venetian suites featuring mother-of-pearl mosaics and damask bedspreads, to the frankly camp and Sixties originals, with sprung fabric wall coverings and elaborate gold bed-heads. All have a distinctly diverse style reminding us that Venice was once a major trading city with the East and has always been a melting-pot. Some bathrooms are finished in glittering tiles with starry-sky ceilings. Contemporary amenities include free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and mini-bars, and bathrooms offer bathrobe, slippers and Venetian toiletries. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the Lagoon, for what must be one of the nest views in Europe.
The hotel’s superb Met Restaurant is ranked one of Time Out‘s Top Ten restaurants in Venice. This top quality, romantic destination restaurant harnesses Venice’s legacy as a once-mighty spice trading empire into a modern menu and atmosphere. Murano glass lamps cast a glow over luxurious fabrics, setting the stage for creative taste combinations in every course. The Met Restaurant, unique and welcoming, has been recently refurbished to a high standard and is still a big draw for local Venetian gourmet diners as well as in-house guests.
The Metropole’s Spa is a perfect place to unwind and be pampered with water-themed treatments. Refulgent mosaics, gold leaf décor, dim lights, marble and majestic columns welcome guests to indulge in a warm and intimate ambience that recalls ancient Hammams.
Views of the water are important in getting the best out of Venice and we recommend booking a room with a view: you need to book well in advance for high season, and be prepared to pay extra for the privilege. Or consider an early spring or winter visit: the skies are often blue, the crowds dispersed, prices are lower, and that perfect room with a view is far more likely to be yours.
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