Risotto, Hemingway, and Real Italian Spirit
Introducing Gianluca Marcato of The Gritti Palace
Venice’s most celebrated hotel, The Gritti Palace, emerged from a carefully designed refurbishment more ravishing than ever. Each painting, objet d’art, and chandelier has been painstakingly restored by Venetian artisans; every inch of velvet, damask, and sumptuous silk wall covering has been replaced with archival patterns. Accommodations have been reconfigured so that the 82 individually decorated rooms and suites are larger and more inviting. Restaurant Club del Doge claims the city’s loveliest dining room view; or enjoy drinks at the Riva Lounge. Be sure to check out the Riva boat experience, exclusively for guests of the hotel.
We recently touched base with Gianluca Marcato who gave us this insider’s view of the grand dame of Venetian hotels.
POE TRAVEL: How would you describe the vibe of The Gritti Palace?
GIANLUCA MARCATO: I would say that the atmosphere is chic, but not in a classic way; it’s elegant but not pretentious, luxurious but not too formal. As a man, I would describe it like that feeling you have when you wear a pair of loafers with a linen suit for a summer night out. The Gritti Palace is the place to be.
PT: Do you have a favorite suite?
GM: As a Hemingway fan, my favorite is our presidential suite named after him. Most of the furniture is still the same since the late ’40s when Hemingway came to Venice and wrote Across the River and into the Trees. Until some years ago, we displayed an autographed copy of the novel in the suite’s living room, but, unfortunately, it was stolen by a guest. Every time I walk in, I try to imagine what Hem’s daily routine would have been; I can imagine him stepping onto the balcony to talk to the gondoliers that—like today—gather right below the windows on a small dock.
PT: What is one thing that makes the hotel so special?
GM: Very few hotels in Venice give you a sense of place like the Gritti Palace, where the Venetian tradition is blended in a unique way with some modern but discreet touches. I still don’t know if it’s because of its hospitality tradition, with the same staff greeting returning guests by name year after year; the allure of the hotel’s celebrity culture; or its position by the Grand Canal, tucked away from the crowd. Certainly, the major renovation five years ago and the incredible terrace by the water make The Gritti Palace a one-of-a-kind place.
PT: Do you have a favorite dish at Restaurant Club Del Doge?
GM: As native Venetian, I have a passion for risotto, so I would say that Hemingway style risotto with scampi is what I would go for. Two years ago I also had the chance to join one of the exclusive cooking classes that we do only for our guests where I actually learned how to make it; the recipe is the same after more than 60 years. Walking to the market with our Chef Daniele Turco to select the ingredients and prepare the risotto under his supervision was one the nicest thing I did.
PT: What is one travel essential you never leave home without?
GM: My leather duffle bag, where I keep my travel essentials. I hate trolleys—they make me feel goofy and slow—and my bag is perfect as hand luggage. It’s also aging with me, getting a nice vintage look.
PT: When you go on vacation, where do you like to go?
GM: Not surprisingly, I like to look for a place without crowds, but even during the off season mountain destinations can be overrun with noisy, amateur hikers. This May, I walked from Bari to Matera in six days, an 80-mile trek across Puglia that allowed me to discover a lot of small villages that still embody the real Italian spirit.