In Venice, a Dollar Won't Take You Very Far

United Press International

The dollar may be taking a beating in European financial markets, but in hotels and restaurants in Venice, site of this week's economic summit, the exchange rate isn't a matter of concern.

A dollar won't even buy you a cup of coffee.

Among tourist spots of the world, this city of canals, art masterpieces and medieval splendor is one of the most expensive.

Rooms at the Excelsior Hotel on the Lido, a spit of land guarding the city's 117 islands from the Adriatic Sea, are costing the American equivalent of $380 a night.

"I wouldn't pay that for a hotel anywhere," said Italian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Constance Hamilton, who is of British ancestry.

White House advance men say the summit rate is cheaper than might normally be charged.

The lira is trading at an official rate of about 1,315 to the dollar, so even minor purchases like a foreign newspaper require denominations of currency adding up to 1,800 lira.

The breakfast and lunch buffets given reporters at the hotel, owned by the Aga Khan, are advertised as discounts--if you consider $26 a bargain.

A la carte, soup costs $10 and a plate of spaghetti $30.

The Excelsior's continental breakfast of coffee and rolls costs $18 and in Venice proper, $20 will buy a plate of fish and chips, salad and a glass of wine.

The famed gondolas start at $40 an hour, but tourists are warned by guidebooks to negotiate the price before stepping into one of the narrow craft that ply the canals.

A private water taxi from the Lido, where the airport and the journalists' hotels are located, to the main islands costs about $60.

The lofty Venice prices do nothing to stop tourists, however.

"Venice is being ruined, actually," Hamilton said, referring to the invasion by hordes of people. "It's being ruined for tourists as well."

But the prices, she said, are not as bad as they could get as summer approaches.

"In July and August, it's more expensive."

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