When our favorite pensione in Rome closed several years ago, my husband and I were forced to start thinking creatively about where we could stay in Italy. Most hotels are too expensive for our modest budget, and we just aren’t into the hostel-thing any more. After a lot of research, we decided to try renting apartments, and we have never looked back. This practice is uncommon in North America, but we have now rented apartments all over Italy, and not only do we save a lot of money, we have also stayed in some great locations and have seen a slice of Italy which those who stay in hotels often miss.
Venice, a city known the world over for being an expensive destination, is one of the best cities for apartment renting. So, when RentalinItaly.com asked me to check out a few of their properties, I willingly obliged. My husband and I stayed in one of their typical apartments: Apartment Garibaldi. We were just arriving in Venice, and Manuela from RentalinItaly.com provided us with excellent directions from the airport to the Giardini vaporetto stop. There we were met by one of the company’s hostesses -- an escort who helps each client find their way through Venice’s labyrinth of calles and canals to their apartment. The young woman who met us was chatty and helpful, pointing out local shops and landmarks on our short walk.
Located on Via Garibaldi in the heart of the Castello residential neighborhood, Apartment Garibaldi occupies the second floor of a residential apartment building. The entrance is down a tiny passageway just off the main thoroughfare. Keys in hand, our hostess showed us upstairs and made sure we were comfortable before she went on her way.
The apartment’s decor is fairly basic, but its appeal is in its location and its size. Nearly 1200 square feet, the apartment is far larger than any affordable hotel room. And it is only up one flight of stairs -- a bonus for people with lots of luggage or with children. There are two amply-sized bedrooms. One sleeps three people in twin beds and the other sleeps two (also in twins). There’s lots of closet and cupboard space to settle in, though not many hangers. The kitchen is fully furnished with dishes, glasses, pots, and pans. And there’s a good-sized room for enjoying your meals with a table and chairs. The apartment also has a TV and a rather uncomfortable couch, but I can’t say I do a lot of TV-watching in Venice.
In many ways, this is the perfect apartment for a family with children or for two couples traveling together. The apartment is spacious and common areas separate the two sleeping areas for extra privacy. There is just one bathroom, and I wouldn’t call it posh. But it was clean, has a shower/tub combination, and is big enough for several people to be in the room at the same time, if needed. I will say, though, the tub needed a new shower curtain when we stayed there. The existing one was torn and looked shabby compared to the rest of the apartment.
The larger of the two bedrooms looks out onto Via Garibaldi, and after a few nights in the apartment, we decided that we truly were in the perfect location to enjoy Venice. Apartment Garibaldi is within walking distance of all of Venice’s major attractions: San Marco, the Grand Canal, the Arsenale... but it is located in a neighborhood without hotels. We walked up and down Via Garibaldi and were the only non-Italians around. Within two blocks of the apartment we found: a grocery store, a fabulous gelato shop, a cell phone store, several great restaurants, a pharmacy, a church, and, on Sunday, a farmer’s market.
Now, here’s the only real potential drawback: the apartment is directly above a fabulous little restaurant. Each night at 9 p.m. sharp they have live music (great Italian songs with accordion and a vocalist). The noise never bothered us -- in fact, one night we were singing along. But if you like to go to bed early (even in Italy) or you have children who have trouble sleeping, you should know that things don’t quiet down until after 11 p.m.
The Gypsy’s Essentials
- The Shower: fair; the shower curtain needed to be replaced, but the water pressure was good, and the water got hot very quickly.
- The Bed: very comfortable. We were cold until we found the spare comforters stashed away in one of the cupboards, but with those on the bed, we were quite happy. The whole house is outfitted with twin beds, some of which are pushed together to form a king.
- The Green Report: staying in an apartment is greener than staying in a hotel. You simply use fewer resources. And the apartment building has a detailed recycling schedule which is posted in the kitchen for the apartment guests.
- Internet Access: none, and we had to walk closer to San Marco to find an internet cafe to use. The owner of the cell phone store across the street thinks this part of the city may get wifi coverage in 2010 as part of Venice’s city-wide wifi initiative.
- Children Welcome: absolutely! This would be a great apartment for families, and RentalinItaly.com can help with providing cribs and other necessities.
- Breakfast: on your own
- Price: reasonable. In November, 2009 Apartment Garibaldi rented for between €120 - 160 per night. They also provide discounts at different times of the year, for longer stays, for repeat customers, and for making your reservations early.
- Notes: the apartment has BOTH a washer and a dryer! When traveling for several weeks or with children, this is such a blessing. We purchased laundry detergent just down the street at the grocery store.
RentalinItaly.com has a large inventory of apartments which they manage in Venice. And that’s an important thing to note. Unlike some of the places I have booked apartments in the past, when booking with RentalinItaly.com you are booking with the people who actually handle the cleaning and maintenance of each property in their Venetian portfolio (that is not true of their apartments outside of Venice, however).
Because of this, if something does go wrong, or the apartment does not somehow live up to your expectations, you do have someone local who can handle the situation for you. In fact, when I met Manuela and her colleagues in their offices, we chatted about the services they provide for their clients in addition to renting the apartments: arranging for tours and events as well as babysitters, making restaurant suggestions and reservations, and providing assistance for their guests during their stay. These services make renting from RentalinItaly.com more comparable to staying in a hotel to a degree, and for the first-time renter they may be reassuring, too.
I also had an opportunity to tour several other apartments managed by RentalinItaly.com. All were unique -- from the opulent to the ordinary. Each has its own flavor. They even have one building with several apartments where up to 12 people can stay together. And the rental company offers discounts for longer stays as well as multiple rentals.
Staying in an apartment in Venice can be a remarkable experience. For just a few days, perhaps, you can feel what it might be like to live in Italy’s most unique city. But be careful. It is a comfortable and romantic way of life. Once you’ve truly submerged yourself in Venice, leaving will break your heart.