After spending 7 summer holidays in Sorrento at the same hotel (Grand Hotel Capodimonte) over the last 15 years, (as we are creatures of habit and know what we like, and The Capodimonte/Sorrento is a fantastic hotel and resort), I had my fingers and toes crossed that The Grand Hotel Royal in Viareggio would meet with our high expectations - and it certainly did!
We spent 2 fantastic weeks here from 3/8 to 17/8 and really enjoyed ourselves.
We booked our flights with Jet2, and the hotel with Citalia so we could chose from either a side-sea view room or a full-sea view room with a balcony. We opted for the first and were allocated Room 330 (3rd floor and tucked away in the corner so was quite quiet as nobody walked passed it), which was absolutely fine for the money we paid in peak season. This bedroom is large and airy with 2 single beds pushed together, has a high ceiling, flat screen large TV, small table and 2 chairs, chest of drawers, 2 bedside cabinets in which there is a safe (free - you're given a key when checking in), air-con unit, a dressing room (no window) containing the fridge (complimentary tea/coffee and a kettle) and a chest of drawers/mirror, but no wardrobe (it has a hanging rail), which were all fine. There was a large modern bathroom with a WC, bidet, sink, single shower cubicle (overhead shower and wall mounted shower head) and wall mounted hairdryer (not brilliant) at the other end of the bedroom.
The towels were changed daily if you wished and so was the linen – you just left a card on your pillow if you didn’t want the linen changed and the dirty towels on the bathroom floor if you wanted clean ones. Two beach towels were left in the room each day to use the following day either on the beach or by the pool (you had to leave your dirty ones for the maid to take away), so you don’t need to take your own.
We were half board and the food was excellent. The breakfast room was large and airy and you sat where you wanted. The waiters came to take your tea/coffee orders and it was possible to order poached, boiled or fried eggs. You could help yourselves to the hot food which consisted of omelette, chipolata sausages and bacon. There were lots of cheeses to eat and cold meats, a toast machine, yoghurts, fresh fruit, jams (including home made), breads, croissants, muffins etc. Breakfast was served from 07:30 to 10:30 and it became quite busy from approx. 09:00 but we always found a table.
During breakfast you were asked if you would like to order your evening meal (not compulsory) and if so, were handed a menu. There were about 6 choices of starters and mains and about 4 desserts. The waiter then came back to take your order (you can choose your dessert at Dinner time); we found ordering at breakfast time better as the one time we didn't, they had run out of a particular dish (we did eat dinner late though - between 20:30 - 21:00). There is a Grand Buffet every Saturday which is great as you can try different foods and help yourselves to as much or as little as you wish.
You are allocated the same table in the outside Dining Room, so after your first night, you can just arrive and sit down and the waiter then comes to take your wine/water order (a litre of bottled water is 2 euros and bottles of red wine start at about 14 euros). If you don’t finish your bottles by the end of your meal, they are kept for you on placed on your table the following evening. The salad bar is amazing with lots to choose from; this is in addition to your starter. There are breads too and salad dressings (wasn’t too sure about the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce though!) We enjoyed pre dinner drinks in the lovely outside bar area in front of the hotel and again, if we couldn’t be bothered to go for a walk and drink along the promenade after dinner, we retired back to the bar, which closes at 1am. By the way, you sign for your drinks, however in the bar (and pool bar) you can pay for them straightaway by cash.
The hotel pool is large, not cold, but quite deep. The isn’t much of a “shallow end” and the lifeguard, Massimo walks around monitoring sun beds and lilo’s in the pool. He did have a couple of lilo’s which you could use, however we bought our own and he did stop my husband from using it late one afternoon as he said there were too many people in the pool – there wasn’t! He is also a stickler for telling you off if you leave your towels/personal belongings on your beds when you go to lunch, so be warned! He actually told another guest that we should only take 30 minutes to have lunch – there is nowhere where this is written down! Er, you tell that to all the Italian waiters – aren’t they renowned for their laid back, leisurely service! I didn’t actually see him move any towels but you felt like you were being told off by the way he looked at you; in my opinion, if he didn’t like you, you knew about it! I know he has a job to do, but he seemed to pick on certain culprits when there were lots of guests breaking his rules! Fellow guests agreed that the hotel needs to purchase more sun-beds (which are comfy) and place these around the pool (there was enough space for a few more) and in the garden, where the hammocks are, as we all agreed that it would have been nice to sunbathe in the garden away from the pool area. Unfortunately the pool area isn’t bathed in the sun all day; the left hand side is in the sun in the morning and the right side isn’t and it switches over from midday. The pool bar is nice and the iced coffee (3 euros) is really nice! We ate our lunch here once (so Massimo didn’t tell us off) and it was fine, but not as good value for money as at the beach bar!
We ventured to the beach on our first full day. It’s literally a 2 minute walk from the hotel, across the road (be careful to check the bike path before you cross that too!) The beach is called the Anita and on arrival there is a sign for Royal Hotel guests to check in. A nice gentleman showed us the changing room which Royal Hotel guests can use, the toilets, showers and then on the beach, the choices of where we could sit (2 deckchairs and an umbrella) which come in the cost of the hotel, for hotel guests. Unfortunately, the allocated chairs did not go right to the front of the beach, but were about half way back and then back towards the hotel. There are plenty to choose from and if you want a sun-bed it will cost another 10 euros. The sea was warm and we only spotted a few jellyfish so they didn’t put us off going into the sea. The beach sellers are annoying as they walk up and down in between the deckchairs selling fake handbags, sunglasses etc and if you’ve not got your eyes closed they ask you if you want to buy from them; it became tedious after a while! The beach bar attached to the Anita beach is really good and we ate there nearly every day, even when we weren’t on the beach. I think a large Moretti beer was 6 euros and a coke/soft drink was 4 euros. The sandwiches and pizzas are good value for money.
The hotel staff are very friendly and always greeted you with a smile and a “hello”. Reception called our Citalia rep (Danny) for us as we wanted to book trips to San Gimignano/Siena and Portofino; these are not cheap, but worth a visit. We went to Lucca ourselves on the train (13 euros return) and the train station is about a 20 minute slow walk away. Lucca is lovely too. We also caught the local bus to Forte Dei Marmi as they have a local market on Wednesday mornings. It’s the most expensive market I’ve ever been to! 250 euros for non-designer leather handbags, cashmere poncho’s etc. There were cheaper things and a lot of designer copies such as Ralph Lauren Polo. It was packed and I was glad to get out!! Forte Dei Marmi is a lovely place with all the designer shops but everything is more expensive than in Viareggio, however, it’s worth a visit.
There is a local market along the promenade in Viareggio every Thursday morning which isn’t as expensive as the one in Forte Dei Marmi and again, is worth a visit.
Viareggio is a lovely resort and we will return and next time we will hire bikes, spend time in the pinewood behind the hotel and explore the town centre more; it was so hot during our visit that we couldn’t be bothered/didn’t have the energy, however, taking a power walk on the promenade at 8am most mornings was lovely as it wasn’t too hot at that time, and all the Italians are out jogging, walking or cycling too.
During our stay there was a carnival which we watched from a sea view balcony and it was amazing! The promenade was packed and traffic was banned to allow the 4 amazing floats to pass by. The music was great and everyone had a great night and the music etc had stopped by midnight at the latest. The following day was a Public Holiday so at 7pm the hotel laid aperitif’s on, in the garden by the pool. Everyone got dressed up and the food was fantastic, oysters, parmesan cheese, mussels, carpaccio and lots of different types of nibbles and there was complimentary processco and bucks fizz too! It was lovely to mingle with other guests before our evening meal.
All in all, this hotel is fantastic and I would highly recommend it. I think we were lucky with our room, as other guests said theirs was small and at the back of the hotel, so it’s a case of “you get what you pay for”. We met some lovely people and would like to thank the hotel staff for making our holiday one to remember for all the right reasons. We will be back!!
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- Also Known As:
- Best Western Viareggio
- Viareggio Best Western
- Grand Hotel Royal Viareggio