Renting an apartment in Venice

Courtyard at the Palazzo Contarini Della Porta Di Ferro apartments in Venice
Courtyard at the Palazzo Contarini Della Porta Di Ferro apartments in Venice
Courtyard at the Palazzo Contarini Della Porta Di Ferro apartments in Venice
The Palazzo Contarini Della Porta Di Ferro is a 13th century palazzo a 10-minute stroll from San Marco with everything from two-person suites to three-bedroom apartments (and a splashing fountain in the courtyard), all with free WiFi, kitchens, and flatscreen TVs—and starting at just €89 per night. Rental apartments rock.

Try the life of a Venetian on for size with your own flat

Sometime around day three of an apartment stay in Venice, a transformation occurs.

The welcoming '"buon giorno" you've been receiving at the neighborhood cheese shops, butchers, and bakeries grows more enthusiastic, with an obvious trace of recognition.

You find yourself in situations the weekend visitor never experiences—buying wine by the jug at a vineria, picking tomatoes out of crates from a greengrocer's boat moored in a canal.

The evening routine you've established includes nibbling on cicchetti (appetizers) with uno spritz (Campari, soda, and white wine) at a cantina, before heading home to cook a delicious feast in your kitchen.

The fabled Italian lifestyle you've always envied is suddenly your own.

You're even able to navigate the city without getting lost—though that won't stop you from wandering aimlessly every day, just because.

To try the life of a Venetian on for size, all you have to do is rent an apartment in the city.

How much does a rental apartment in Venice cost?

Apartments are rented at different nightly, weekly, and monthly rates, which vary by season and number of guests.

The price to rent an apartment in Venice can range as low as $45 per night—but that's in low season and if you're renting for a week or longer. Typical weekly rentals in shoulder season cost around $800–$1200 per week (which, if split four ways, is a remarkable $29–$43 per person per night).

Just spending a night or three in Venice? The typical per-night rate for a two-bedroom apartment in high season is $120–$300 for two people—maybe $350–$50 if you cram in six people—still a steal when compared to Venetian hotels.

Add to this some extra fees like the tourist tax (€1–€2.50 per person per night) and a one-time cleaning fee (varies; €30–€80).

Apartment ratings

Some agencies use star ratings, but there's no correlation to hotel ratings—or other agency's ratings for that matter.

Officially, according to the city, there are three categories (I, II, and III) based on size and amenities... but that's of little help as more than half the available apartments fall into the fourth, "non-classified" category.

Do your homework to make sure the unit meets your expectations.

How do I find an apartment in Venice?

The rental process isn't as simple as hailing a gondolier—though if you do it via an online booking engine (direct links to apartments bookable via some of my favorites are below), it's at least as simple as reserving a hotel.

Apartments in Venice

Rental agencies and booking sites

PartnerHomeAway (www.homeaway.comPartner) - Probably the biggest (at least when it comes to Italy), with more than 28,000 rentals in Italy alone, of which more than 880 are in Venice.

PartnerBooking.com (www.booking.com) - A generalist booking engine is a great choice—especially if you're looking for nightly or short-term apartments (though weekly rentals also available)—with a selection of apartments that seems to be growing daily (at press time, 187 apartments in Venice).

PartnerVRBO (www.vrbo.comParnter) - The names stands for "Vacation Rentals By Owners," which is (mostly) exactly what this is: it cuts out the middle man or a rental agency (and the attendant fees) by allowing those with rental homes—nearly 320 in Venice—to advertise them directly to potential vacation renters. I say "mostly" because, as you might imagine, plenty of agencies post their offering here as well, but that's OK. So long as you find the right match for you, does the provenance of the perfect vacation home really matter? I've used this service to find everything from a flat in London to a South Carolina beach house.

PartnerRentalo (www.rentalo.com) - More than 120,000 properties around the world, including 246 in Venice.

Airbnb.com (www.airbnb.com) - Network of both official and unofficial apartments and B&Bs, including an astounding 725 apartments in Venice. Its rates are among the lowest, charging anywhere from $44 to $500 per night (OK, so a tiny handful cost more). Yes, that's quite a price range, but the important thing is that roughly 70% of the apartments cost $200 or less per night—way less than most hotels. That said, this is kind of "classifieds" site, and many of the properties are unregulated, so buyer-beware.

Additional and local agencies

PartnerVenere.com (www.venere.com) - Another key generalist booking engine. This major Italian booking service represents all sorts of accommodations, including 77 "Vacation rentals" (a.k.a. apartments) in Venice. Some are self-catering, but more are residence hotels (like an all-suite hotel), somewhere between an apartment and a hotel: you (usually) get a front desk and maid service (though perhaps not nightly).

PartnerHostelWorld (www.hostelworld.com) - Yes, it has "hostels" in the name, but this site also lists 34 Venice apartments—as well as loads of cheap hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds.

Views on Venice (www.viewsonvenice.com) - A local agency with a three-night minmum on 70 apartments in Venice, conveniently divided among three cateogries: Ease and Economy (11), Dolce Vita Living (44), and Pure Indulgence (26); most flats rent for from €1,050 to €4,800 per week.

RentalinItaly.com (www.rentalinitaly.com) - This Italy specialist reps some 74 apartments in Venice from €231 for three nights in low season (minimum stay in high season: one week). For some reason, will not let you organize resutls by price. Fail.

Villas International (www.villasintl.com) - Long-established agency, with properties in perhaps more countries than any other, including more than 60 apartments in Venice.

Interhome (www.interhome.us) - Thousands upon thousands of apartments and villas across Europe, including about 45 in Venice.

PartnerBelvilla (www.belvilla.com) - More of a villa specialist than an apartment resource, this Dutch company with its excellent catalog of rentals does rep a few dozen flats in the center of Venice (along with loads of lovely villas and houses in the surrounding Veneto region).

Craigslist.org (www.craigslist.org) - The biggest virtual classifieds section lists short-term rentals all over the world. Be sure to rifle through the craigslists of most major U.S. cities—doesn't matter if you live there or not—because lots of folks post rental ads for their Venice apartment on the Craigslists for New York, Chicago, San Fran, etc.

Tips & links

Rental tips

Getting what you pay for

  • Week-long rentals are typical, though some apartments are available for two or three nights at a time, especially in the off-season.
  • Peak season is roughly April to June, September to October, and during Carnevale, which falls in January or February.
  • Advanced reservations are essential. For high season, it's best to book several months, or even a full year, ahead.
  • Comparing apartments can seem impossible. One agency might provide floor plans, dozens of photos, and square footages. Another might have only a description like "Lovely two-bedroom apartment near San Marco; from €200." Do your homework. Research it. Ask lots of questions.
  • Apartment class/star ratings are unreliable. Some agencies use star ratings, but there's no correlation to hotel ratings—or other agency's ratings for that matter. Officially, according to the city, there are three categories (I, II, and III) based on size and amenities... but that's of little help as more than half the available apartments fall into the fourth, "non-classified" category.
  • "Sleeps 4" doesn't necessarily mean a two-bedroom. When investigating possible apartments, look closely in particular at the number of bedrooms, as well as at the number of people an apartment sleeps. More often than not, "sleeps four" means a one-bedroom unit, with two guests in the bedroom and two on a fold-out couch—fine for a family, less than ideal for two couples. Ask the owner or agency about the setup if it's not mentioned in the listing.
  • Every owner bends the rules sometimes, so even if a website states that an apartment only rents by the week or longer, or that rates are completely nonnegotiable, it never hurts to inquire about flexibility. Small agencies and owners who rent one or two apartments are particularly likely to bargain during slower periods.
  • Bait and switch is pervasive when booking through an agency—whether intentional or because online databases aren't updated to reflect actual availability. Double-check that the apartment you want is the apartment you're getting. If the agency offers an alternative, make sure it's up to snuff and reasonably priced.

Deposits and cancellations

  • A deposit (or caparra) will usually be necessary to hold your reservation. The amount varies: It might be the equivalent of one night's stay; it might be 30 to 50 percent of the total; it might be something totally different. The balance is due 6 to 20 days prior to arrival.
  • Bank wire transfers are required to rent some apartments, particularly direct-from-owner units. Banks in the U.S. charge $30–$50 for a transfer, and it'll take three to five business days to process. You can avoid this by using an online booking service (listed above).
  • Taxes, utilities, and a final cleaning fee are frequently included in the quoted price, but that's not always the case, so ask. If the apartment has a phone, inquire whether local calls cost extra. Same goes for WiFi or other Internet service.
  • Expect to pay a security deposit against potential damages, either through a hold on your credit card or in cash to the person who gives you the keys. The money will be refunded when you check out.
  • The tourist tax charged by the city of Venice (as of 2011) is often not included in the quoted rates. This insanely complicated new system has two-dozen different per-person charges (it changes depending on season, location, and official rating category of the apartment), ranging from €0.74 to €2.50 per person per night.
  • Cancellation policies vary, with refunds given on a sliding scale, meaning less money is returned the later that you cancel. The deposit is rarely refundable, though you may be able to get some of the money back if you cancel far in advance.

Who will give you the key?

  • A representative will meet you at the vaporetto (public water bus) stop nearest the apartment at a prearranged time. He or she will lead you to the flat, show you the ropes (which keys fit which locks, location of the fuse box), point out nearby markets and cafés, and provide a local number to call if you have questions.
  • Most kitchens come fully equipped, but double-check that this is the case if you plan on cooking. Before heading to the market, look in the cabinets. There are often some cooking staples (salt, sugar, pasta, olive oil) left by former guests.
  • Towels and linens are typically provided, but bring your own soap, shampoo, and toiletries; this is not a hotel.
  • Maid service is rare, though a few rentals offer cleaning every three days or so. Remember: You're living like a Venetian, which includes taking out the trash and recycling. Your host will provide a schedule.
 
Rentals links
Other lodging links
Lodging tips
  • If you're looking for a hotel near a particular sight, just go to that sight's page and, in the sidebar on the right, you'll see a list of all the nearby hotels (with "Reid Recommends" choices preceded by a little RR icon: Reid Recommends).
  • The Venice hotel tax: As of 2011, Venice began charging a Visitor Tax. This is the city's doing, and it is not a scam (just annoying). All charges are per person, per night, for all guests over the age of 10, and the tax is charged for stays of up to 10 days. (There are discounts: Dec-Jan, 30%; Kids aged 10-16, 50%; Stays on the Lido or other outer islands, 20%; Stays in Mestre or elsewhere on the mainland, 20%.)

    The cost breakdown is insanely complicated (varies with official clasification and rating cateogry), but general as of 2014:

    • Hotels: €1 pppn (per person per night) per star rating. (So a couple [2 people] staying three nights [2 x 3 = 6] in a four-star hotel [6 x €4 = €24] would pay an extra €24.
    • B&Bs: €3 pppn flat
    • Apartments, residences, rental rooms: €1.50–€2.50 pppn
    • Hostels/religious housing and agriturismi: €2 pppn
    • Camping: €0.10–€0.40 pppn

    Some hotels have folded the fee into their quoted rates; most properties tack it on as an extra when you check out. Just be prepared.

  • Book ahead in summer and during Carnevale: Venice is way more popular than the number of beds it has, so while in the dead of winter you can often show up and find a good place to crash easily, the best rooms (and the best-value hotels) are booked well in advance for the summer months and the two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday (when Venice breaks out the fancy dress and masks for its famed Carnevale celebrations).

    Same goes (though less so, and more at the chic and high end hotels) during the Venice Biennale art festival and the Venice Film Festival.
  • Pay extra for A/C in summer: No matter what kind of lodging you pick, if it's summer (a) try to get a room with air-conditioning and (b) even if you can't (or you can but have a hankering for some fresh air) resist the urge to open the windows to your room.

    Venice is, I believe, the primary breeding ground for the mosquito population of Southern Europe, and precious few Italian hoteliers have discovered that newfangled invention called window screens. Keep the windows shut, or prepare to be bitten.

    (Also, carry some bug spray for those romantic canalside dinners outside. Trust me.)
  • Avoid Mestre: Any hotels with an address in "Venezia-Mestre" is actually in the dull, modern, industrial suburb at the mainland end of the bridge over to the real, ancient Venice you came all this way to see. Do not stay in Mestre! You'll spend more time and money commuting each day in an out of Venice proper than you will save.
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