GRAND HOTEL EUROPA PALACE
If you are a person of the respectable kind, who is looking for a good four-star hotel in Sorrento – with a convenient location, beautiful views and discreet comfort – I think I have the place for you. Perched on the edge of the city’s famous cliffs, the 69 rooms of the Grand Hotel Europa Palace occupy a smart villa of the Art Nouveau sort. Its facilities include a pleasant garden, a private beach and one of those ‘wellness centres’ which are now so popular. The hotel has its own lift to take guests down to its swimming pool and to the adjacent sun-bathing facilities.
Back upstairs, the public rooms are of some grandeur, for they have marble floors and crystal chandeliers, and Classical busts are dotted about here and there. Plus, thank goodness, there is no canned music to spoil the atmosphere. There is an extensive terrace, on which one can (as I did) enjoy a pot of tea while gazing out at a panorama which includes the island of Ischia to the left, Naples far over the water directly ahead and, to the right, the brooding presence of Mount Vesuvius. This was a treat for the eyes.
It is essential, therefore, to ensure that your room affords you this pleasure. Mine did, and was therefore called a ‘Superior Sea View Room’. (You need to consult the hotel website for the rates for specific dates.) Number 306 was on the third floor and had a balcony with a small table and two chairs. The apartment’s colour scheme of brown, grey and cream imparted a not unpleasing sense of decorative austerity. From the corridor a hallway contained the door to the bathroom on the left and the door to the bedroom straight ahead. In the former were one wash basin, a bath tub with an overhead shower and walls clad with brown marble. The latter contained two armchairs in the French style, a writing desk and a safe within the fitted wardrobes. The air conditioning was quiet and effective.
I have called the location ‘convenient’. True, it is a bit of a walk into the busier part of town, and I used taxis to take me into the centre. But I was assured by those fellow guests with more robust constitutions that most people would not find the walk taxing.
I broke my fast each morning on the terrace of the dining room, sitting in a shady corner on a white metal chair. My table was covered with a fine white tablecloth, but the napkins were of paper, sadly. Still, the food from the buffet was appealing, with a gold star going to some splendid marmalade. I can also recommend the fruit salad, the crusty white bread, the slices of cake (similar to Madeira cake), the poached eggs and the bacon.
In the evening I dined within the restaurant, at table number three, next to an open window, with orange trees outside. Tables tend to be shared at the Europa Palace, which is not something I care for, and specific tables cannot be reserved, so I had to wait for a few minutes for the table I wanted to become available.
Once settled, I found my surroundings amenable. The napery was lemon, the glassware was by Bormioli and the food was served beneath silver domes. Many guests were, I think, on half-board, but I chose my four courses from the carte (57€). I found my dishes straightforward, tasty and carefully cooked. Parma ham and melon was followed by a large portion of spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil. The grilled beef fillet of my main course was a fine piece of meat, tender and full of flavour, and was accompanied by some roast potatoes which were equally good. And my pudding was the highlight of the meal: really excellent homemade strawberry and vanilla ice cream.
The wine list has 95 offerings, all Italian, running in price from 20€ for a chianti to 70€ for a Brunello di Montalcino by Banfi. Tasting notes are given for each wine, but vintages are not given. I tried a local red, made from the aglianico grape, which went decently with the beef (Rubrato Aglianico, San Gregorio, 2012 – 25€).
The location, the views and the level of comfort mark out the Grand Hotel Europa Palace as an ideal four-star hotel in Sorrento for the respectable traveller.