Renting an Apartment in Venice
Try the life of a Venetian on for size.
Direct from owner
In its "Accommodation" database mentioned above, the Venice Tourism website lists 488 holiday apartments in the center of town. While plenty of them are represented by agencies, many are individual apartments for rent directly from the owner.
Skipping the middleman is an age-old formula for finding deals. The problem is that renting direct can be tedious and difficult. Sifting through properties eats up time. Many owners haven't set up flashy websites, and you're left with little more than an address and a phone number. Even with the apartments sporting websites and e-mail addresses, the rental procedure is rarely easy. Few owners accept credit cards; you'll usually have to wire a deposit via bank transfer and pay the balance in cash on arrival (though PayPal is becoming popular). You might need to call Italy several times to confirm rental and payment details, and the language issue may get in the way.
All apartments on the Venice site have been registered and inspected by the tourism association, so there's no reason to be concerned about scams. But bypassing an agency leaves you little recourse in the rare case something goes wrong. An agency is better equipped than an ordinary owner to arrange for substitute lodging, if it comes to that.
The prizes that turn up in the tourist office's database can be fantastic, however. Casseleria, run by owner Francesco Bramante, offers four antique-furnished flats between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge starting at $165 per person per week, split among four guests. That's just $24 a night per person, about what local hostels charge for dorm beds. Venetian Atmosphere is the name of a trio of apartments in a palazzo a few yards from St. Mark's Square. Prices start at $58 per person per night. The Villa Santa Caterina, a rustic house on the tiny island of Mazzorbetto, starts at $236 per person per week--$79 per person for the weekend--and includes your own motorboat.
Many hotels rent apartments, sometimes in the same building, sometimes halfway across town. Booking one can be as easy as calling the hotel or going to its website and providing a credit card number. Hotels allow you to rent for shorter periods (usually a three-night minimum) and take advantage of typical hotel amenities, including toiletries, maid service daily or several times a week and, for a few additional euros, breakfast at the hotel.
On the downside, hotel apartment prices tend to be higher than on the open market. Also, some "apartments" are little more than hotel rooms with a kitchenette crammed into a closet.
Still, there are some true finds. Hotel Ai Due Fanali offers units overlooking the busy waters of the Bacino di San Marco, from $227 per night for two. Pensione Guerrato, next to the Rialto market, rents a three-bedroom apartment upstairs from the hotel, a one-bedroom with space for four near San Marco, and a fantastic three-story home just off the Mercerie shopping street that can sleep up to six, starting at $42 per person per night.