We have visited this diverse and wonderful collection of islands known as Venice numerous times, but felt we'd never really “seen” this fascinating city until we rented an apartment for one week for an independent, slow travel experience. As luck would have it, our “street” (left) turned out to be a main gondola route complete with music and serenading gondoliers.
Two Approaches to Visiting the “Floating City”
A visit measured in days
On our first visit to Venice we were day-trippers and stayed for two nights at the Romantik Hotel Villa Margherita, lovely actually located outside the city on the Brenta Riviera. Our next visit we stayed for three nights at The Pensione Accademia right in in the old city. The previous visits exposed us to so many new things that we decided to return several years later, this time booking an old town apartment for one week. We “officially” transitioned to independent, slow travelers with an “inspired itinerary” as our guide.
A Visit Measured in Hours
This remarkable city of approximately 60,000 somehow manages an influx of over 16.5 million tourists a year. Most of these visitors are day-trippers spilling out of tour buses and cruise ships usually with limited time to explore. They go to the must-see sites such as the Piazza San Marco or the Rialto Bridge or have a quick lunch and a gelato with a brief stop at the traditional souvenir shops. They are on a tight schedule which is designed to maximize their time and the number of sites that they visit. But at least they had the opportunity to see new vistas and points of interest during their adventure. Hopefully they can return independently for a closer look. And the independent traveler’s preference is to secure a vacation rental.
The How: Finding the Right Vacation Rental
We went online and checked HomeAway.com and ViewsOnVenice.com, and found the “perfect” place for us. These rental websites are full of pictures, descriptions, location maps and, best of all, previous renters' comments. There are a wide variety of units and a large price range to choose from. You will find that a two-bedroom place in the most desireable location equates, pricewise, to a mid-range hotel room. You are now comparing the space of an apartment verses the usually small square footage of a hotel room. With the vacation rental you can get much more value for the travel dollar.
The apartments are usually stocked with the basics, and the rental companies provide you with a 24-hour contact for communication, current tourist information, restaurant suggestions, and the location of neighborhood grocery and wine shops. In addition, the agents are a very helpful resource in case of problems.
The Why: Key Motivations for a Vacation Rental
One of the main advantages of apartment/villa living is experiencing a destination as a local and feeling the vibe of the community. Add to that the adventure of being in a foreign country and living on your own (yet with a safety net… the rental agent). For instance, when they came to our rescue after we locked ourselves out of the apartment.
The What: Living in Unique and Historic Homes
Scenes from our apartment!
The Experience – Getting Acclimated to Your New Environment
Taking your time to venture out in a new city is so rewarding, and one of the best ways to get oriented is to hire a local “private walking tour”. A two- to three-hour tour on your schedule gets you a resident’s perspective on the best their hometown has to offer and where to find the hidden gems of Venice.
Part of the “independent traveler’s mantra” is also to learn a few simple phrases in the language of the country that you are visiting, which can be a lot fun and practical too. Shopping for your daily groceries is fun, as well as one of the normal things locals do every day. The skipping-stone tourist cannot take advantage of the delicacies that are now available to you… a big plus for the slow traveler to savor.
By the time you return from your first “food run” you will have a pretty good understanding of the layout of the new community that you have just adopted. By the second time you venture out, the community has a pretty good understanding about you and they may even start to greet you. Being smart merchants, they recognize the “new locals” and want you to return to their shop throughout your visit.
Restaurants started to offer us their better tables, on-the-house specialty dishes or desserts, and the wine merchants began to suggest their favorite wines (sometimes less expensive ones too) and ”try this one on the house”…. We did say they were smart business people!
One of the Key Benefits: Let Out Your Inner Chef
As you stroll through your new neighborhood, you learn where the “good stuff” is sold, and one of our favorites was the famous Rialto Fish Market (Mercato del Pesce). The fish cannot get any fresher than this, and the variety makes it a seafood lover’s paradise. We would go there in the morning and select the ingredients for that evening’s meal.
The apartment allows you to cook a meal that YOU created in romantic Venice, and also a casual place to enjoy local wine in Venetian glassware
In summary – Do you need any more reasons?
- The adventure of being in a foreign country and living on your own
- A completely relaxed atmosphere with your exclusive space to enjoy
- Having your morning coffee or tea in your “jammies” in the privacy of your own kitchen or terrazza
- Taking the time to actually wander around and discover the real Venice and her people
- Enjoying a pre-dinner glass of wine or a cocktail on the terrazza in your comfy “sloppy” clothes
- The freedom to do whatever you want and on your own terms and timing
- Taking an overnight excursion to another city, if you like… the savings of the rental over hotel makes this a possibility
Immerse yourselves in the wonders of Venice….the culture and her people…. Slow down and enjoy.
What is the hurry…….be inspired!