Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hotel Review: Westin Europa & Regina, Venice

Location: Grand Canal, Venice
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

The five-star Westin Europa & Regina is the result of a merger between Hotel Europa (formerly known as Hotel Britannia until 1938) and Hotel Regina. The premises are made up of five separate 18th and 19th Century palaces, all located along the picturesque Grand Canal. It is where Claude Monet once spent an autumn and where the movies Talented Mr. Ripley and The Tourist were filmed.

Westin Europa & Regina on the Grand Canal

Though only steps away from the famous Piazza San Marco, the Westin is hidden in a dizzying maze of alleyways and therefore hard to find. Visitors who arrive in Venice by train is bound to get lost no matter how good their map reading skill is. If you are flying directly into Venice, your water taxi will drop you off at the hotel’s private pier at the back. But be warned: water taxis in Venice are one of the most expensive modes of transportation in the world.

Rooms at the Westin have all the trimmings of an 18th Century Venetian palace: crystal chandeliers, lush carpeting, brass faucets and faux Louis XIV antique furniture. But the best part about the hotel is not its rooms; it is sitting at the outdoor waterfront terrace of Bar Tiepolo – named after the 17th Century painter Giambattista Tiepolo – and sipping pinot grigio with friends and family while the busy Venetian water traffic passes you by. That’s what my brothers and I did every afternoon during our stay there last May. It was without a doubt the most enjoyable part of our trip.

The waterfront terrace at Bar Tiepolo

Service at the Westin is tolerable. As is customary for grand hotels, the guest must drop off his key at the front desk and pick it up when he returns. Just imagine the chaos at the under-staffed counter during the peak tourist season. The fact that Italians are hardly known for their efficiency makes this outdated protocol all the more frustrating.

Visit Venice in January-February for the incredible Carnevale di Venezia or every other summer for the world famous art fair: La Biennale di Venezia. When you do, stay at the Westin and soak up the history and culture of a beautiful hotel in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Just one stay and you and your loved ones will be talking about it for years.

The enchanting Carnevale di Venezia

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