Accommodation in Venice or any new city can be quite a daunting task to book. When you’re going in blind you have little to no idea of the cities layout, what is within walking distance of the hotel, what the area is like… And I don’t even dare to start on the aesthetics of the inside of flea ridden looking hotels. I’ve played Tripadvisor Tinder more times than I can count and shuddered at images of half crumbling walls and dodgy looking bed covers accompanied by 1 star reviews followed by a plethora of exclamation points !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and DO NOT STAY HERE’s.
The first time I stayed in Venice (around 6 years ago) I stayed in a hotel slap bang in the centre in the San Marco District, Duodo Palace. The following visit we remained in our comfort zone and headed back to the same hotel. Skip forward two years and we tentatively dipped our toe into the offerings of booking.com and landed a gem of a hotel, the Marconi, a stones throw from the Rialto Bridge (the only downside being the fairly sewage like fragrance of the reception).
For our most recent adventure we decided to switch things up a bit and veer away from your standard hotel stay.
During previous visits my brother the chef and food enthusiast would look longingly at the stalls of the Rialto Market, an array of produce in numerous colours and the sorta stinky but super fresh fish market and say “I wish I could cook in Venice” and with this in mind we hunted down an apartment to suit this “self catering” requirement. Self catering on a summer holiday is pretty much the norm if you want to save a bit of money by eating in OR if like me you would rather explore the restaurants in your resort and experience some traditional dishes than eat in the hotel each night. For city breaks, hotels are more often than not the preferred accommodation due to the short duration of your stay and ease of the frills and comforts that a hotel stay brings.
For me when it comes to holidays, as much as boutique and luxury hotels are fabulous if you can afford them, I’ve always been of the opinion that I’m on holiday to spend my time in another country, not inside a hotel room. Of course, cleanliness and basic home comforts are important but I would rather spend money on the experiences outside of the accommodation (local food, excursions etc) than having a fancy shower or gold plated taps, yknow? BUT, each to their own.
When it came to choosing an apartment in Venice we were at an advantage because we knew the city and distance between the areas we’d be spending the most time in. There’s nothing worse for your poor old feet than turning up to your accommodation to find its a good old trek away from general points of interest and even the comfiest of shoes can’t save your feet from that blistering pain. Luckily, Venice is only 414.6km2, so wherever you stay is in walking distance – or you can hop onto one of the cities vaporetto (a waterbus).
When searching for tried and trusted apartments within the city the same website kept popping up – VeniceApartments.org. This website offers an array of apartments located all over the city which offer a truly impressive “live in” experience in a local house. Venice Apartments.org have a number of apartments furnished in true Italain style within the historical centre. After much deliberation, we settled on Da Ponte, a central based, spacious, two bedroom mid class apartment in the San Polo district along the famous ruga Rialto.
We arrived at Venice Treviso at 21:45 on the 18:30 Ryanair flight from East Midlands airport. I know people may tend to turn their nose up Ryanair for its budget and basic flights, but for a two hour journey for £45 which works out at less than the price of a train ticket to London, I’m not going to grumble. The arrival time meant that we arrived at the office outside of the general working hours and we would have to collect the keys from a secure lockbox outside VeniceApartments.org. There were directions a plenty provided prior to arrival which included the pin code to open the lockbox, detailed maps and a walking guide to get you from your arrival point of choice to the office and then to your apartment. We arrived by the ATVO coach into Piazzale Roma (located right at the top of the Grand Canal) and it was as simple as crossing two bridges and a little bit of luggage lugging. Then it was a case of heading back to the main area of Piazzale Roma and taking the ACTV Vaporetto to your designated Vaporetto stop (Rialto in our case) and then onto the apartment.
Being blessed with the power of an iPhone I preferred to Apple Map my way from the bridge over to the apartment using the address provided (mainly because I’m lazy) but the printed map provided would have sufficed. Venice is famed for its twisting and winding streets and its easy to find yourself getting a little bit lost, but Venice is also famed for the safety of its streets and in the 4 times I’ve been there I’ve never felt scared to be on the streets even late at night. The most you have to fear in Venice is pickpocketers in the busy areas such as the Rialto Market or St Marks Square, but again, I’ve never been subject to this. Our apartment was tucked away in a sidestreet just off of the ruga Rialto which boasts a convenience store, a bustling bar, what Venice would claim to be a “fast food” restaurant and a beautiful little patisserie.
It helped that I did my homework before we arrived in Venice, especially as we arrived late at night and it was dark, but I found the whole experience of locating the office and the apartment pretty straight forward. I suppose I was at an advantage as I had been before and dissed the travel side out but the directions were that detailed that even as a first timer I think you’d struggle to get lost.
The apartment itself was exactly what I had expected (probably due to the amount of research I had done before we travelled). A double and twin rooms, a living area complete with dining table, a small kitchenette with fridge freezer, gas hob and a worktop oven and crockery and cooking utensils – there was even olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and other condiments in the apartment should you want to cook – which we did!
Let’s head back to my first few paragraphs about not needing to stay in the laps of luxury when on holiday: this apartment is not a luxury apartment. In terms of a star basis I’d say it would rate as a 2-3 star and certain parts of the apartment could do with a little TLC or even a little bit of modernisation. But in the long and short of it is that VeniceApartments.org offer the opportunity to stay in the heart of Venice away from the grand hotels (which are beautiful, don’t get me wrong) and “live like a Venetian” whilst you’re in the city.
Staying at Da Ponte also opened up to us a whole new area of the island that we hadn’t visited previously and probably wouldn’t have visited had we chosen to stay in the apartment. On the second day of our trip we took the walk from Rialto Ruga up to the office we had collected our keys from to pay the city tax that tourists are charged when staying in Venice. The tax works out at a maximum (during high season) of €5 per night, per person and is used to fund tourism, the maintenance of cultural heritage sights and public services. Some people may grumble at the additional fee of City Tax, I certainly did on my first time, but after reflection it’s a small price to pay for extremely laborious and intricate maintenance of buildings of such a beautiful city. During the walk to the office we discovered an entire area of the city that I had never happened upon. We so happened upon three amazing Cichetti bars (more on that to come!) and took a stroll to the Giudecca Canal
Making the walk from the apartment also made us realise how simple it would be to walk from the office the next time we stayed at Da Ponte.
See, that there is the indicator of a good holiday and accommodation. Would you return? A resounding “yes” is the answer to this question. In fact, by day two we had already contacted VeniceApartments.org to enquire about the availability of another date.
And if I didn’t return to Da Ponte? I’d most definitely return to the city and make use of VeniceApartments.org. The wide choice of apartments means all budgets and tastes are catered for and let’s be honest, if you don’t want to cook, you don’t have to but it’s nice to have the option there if you’re a bit of a foodie and can’t resist the pull of the Rialto market.