Perhaps unsurprisingly, Venice is home to a large number of very plush and expensive accommodations. Even though my usual instinct is to avoid such places, when attending a friend's small but costly wedding in the city, the choice was made for me, and I spent a couple of nights experiencing the opulence of the Hotel Europa and Regina.
The lavish establishment occupies some centuries old mansions on the Grand Canal, fairly close to Piazza San Marco. The understated nature of the entrance, which is located on a quaint courtyard, is deceptive because the best way to describe the style of the rich interior would be Venetian palatial. Meanwhile, history has bequeathed not only a profusion of marble in many hues, but also an eccentric and almost maze like layout, which makes for confusion, but also a discreet atmosphere.
It is a large-scale hotel, with almost 200 rooms, although very few of them actually overlook the famous waterway, which seems a shame given the prime position. Each of the chambers is to a certain degree unique, and all feature some fabulous original baroque fittings. It is therefore a real shame that the owners have imposed an uninspired international chain type of décor wherever the opportunity has arisen, which has resulted in the unflattering presence of bland, modern furnishings and paintings.
Thankfully, the facilities are more typical of such a high-quality place to stay, including a very well regarded and high cost gourmet restaurant, and also charming vintage style bar. It is also possible to drink or dine in a small quiet internal garden courtyard, or more spectacularly on a canal side veranda that is directly opposite the striking Church of St Mary of the Salutation. Although neither the food nor the views were as good as at the more famous Danieli's rooftop terrace, being so close to the gently lapping water made the experience more atmospheric. Meanwhile, residents can also make use of the leisure facilities and private beach at Hotel des Bains on the Lido, which are a complimentary boat trip away.
However, to be fair, there is little other generosity on the part of the proprietors, and one complaint is that it felt as though there was a cynical policy of over the top profiteering in operation. One of several examples encountered is the outrageous amount charged for breakfast. Whilst guests might choose to spend extravagantly to eat sumptuous dishes and drink fine wine in opulent surroundings, expecting them to pay quite so much money for a morning meal seems to be unjustifiable, even if the buffet and the locale were both pleasant. Obviously, whilst some may think that a rate of several hundred euros per night is quite enough to ask of people, the management of the Europa and Regina would seem to strongly disagree!