Where To Stay in Venice
Venice is one of the most unique, remarkable and romantic cities on the planet. The city firmly remains a fairy tale of a destination, with its seemingly endless maze of narrow streets and murky canals, punctuated with grand palazzos, but still how does one not get discouraged with the mass tourism? That is the subject we will discuss in this report. First of all, be assured that Venice can be a lovely and rewarding destination to visit most anytime of the year outside of probably August, but visiting during high season just requires a little more thought and maybe a little adjustment of ones expectations. You just have to adjust your trip according to what you want out of Venice, along with the time of year.
First, a little background on Venice tourism. Venice has one of the highest rates of tourism per capita anywhere in the world. Venice is beautiful and unique, and we are not the only ones who want to experience it. Venice hosts 30,000,000 tourists per year, an average of 55,000 per day, about equal to the number of its residents. During the season from Mid April through September, cruise ships alone are responsible for 32,000 visitors per day. The tough part though is that the far majority of tourists visit from the end of April to the middle of September, with Mid June through August being especially busy. Tourist numbers of 80,000 per day in August are now common. At the same time in August, half the locals are out of the city on their own vacations.
Now a little demographic background; the city has a population of about 260,000, which has not increased greatly in the last 40 years. But what has changed is where people live. 60,000 people live in the historic center, about 20,000 in the lagoon area and the balance on the mainland areas of Venice. The big change has been that in 1980, there were 120,000 in the historic center, in 1950, there were 175,000. The current population of central Venice is about what it was in 1000 AD. There are now more Venetians living on the mainland than in Venice. The burdens of over tourism are actually forcing people to leave the historic center, destroying the quality of life and making it difficult to develop a more balanced economy for the areas young people and middle class. We must always, remember that Venice is a treasure and we want to be part of the solution to her problems, not part of the cause.
So, what is one to do? First of all, avoid August. Secondly choose your accommodations based upon area and the season that you will be visiting in. Venice has a huge choice of accommodations to fit any need or desire. Many accommodations are some of the most unique venues in the world. Your accommodation can be and should be an important component of your experience, one that you will remember for the rest of your life. We at Specialty Cruise and Villas specialize in luxury experiential travel and our recommendations will reflect that philosophy. But do keep in in mind that accommodations in Venice are not inexpensive. The costs of maintenance and construction are very high(no cars or trucks), and everything is built on pilings. The fight against moisture is constant. So figure on spending considerably more here than in most destinations, but also know that your accommodations can be very special, and that is what we are here to help you with.
Now that you know a little about the background situation, let’s get down to the specifics of choosing an accommodation. The periods from late September to late October, and from April 1 to May 15 are the best times to visit in our opinion. The city will not be empty, but not too crowded either, and the weather should be good.
Next best would be Early to mid September and May 15 to June 15. It will be getting more crowded, but the weather will be great. Next would be the Winter time(with the exception of Carnival) and early Spring from Jan to the end of March. It might be cold occasionally, it could even snow a bit, but the city will be relatively uncrowded, and being in Venice without the crowds is just glorious and a very special experience. You can also experience how real Venetians live and be part of the solution to the over tourism problem. November and December is the rainy period, and quite uncrowded. You might even experience the “Agua Alta” flooding during this time, though this is not a huge issue, as it is tidal and only lasts a number of hours. If you must travel in the summer, avoid August, and consider an accommodation away from the “tourist tracks”, or even in the lagoon. The lagoon is still very authentic and is perfect for the summer. A lagoon experience can be a truly memorable, and we are recommending it more frequently all the time, especially pre or post cruise when our clients have already been to Venice before.
First, we will discuss low season, from late October through mid-April, with the exception of Carnival. During this period you can pretty much stay anywhere in Venice and have a wonderful experience. Venice can be damp and cold at times, but the city without crowds is truly magnificent, no matter the weather. At this time of the year we would suggest an accommodation near the center of things, either a great room in an atmospheric hotel, or an apartment rental, if you are staying more than three or four days, don’t need all the services of a five star hotel, and want to live more like a Venetian.
Our specific recommendations are as follows. We will discuss specific rooms within these properties a little later.
If you want to experience a magnificent Venetian palazzo in all its glory and classic style (and this is an experience only available in Venice), you might choose the Gritti Palace or Ca' Sagredo. If you like your palazzo with a little edgier style, consider Palazzo Venart, or Pallazina G. Or, if you want your palazzo truly magnificent and a little “edgy”, but at the same time being one of the planet’s truly great hotels, choose the new Aman. If you wish to live like a local in your own Venetian apartment, we have five or six recommendations that you will never forget and are in still functioning residential areas.
Now, in season, from May to October, and certainly from June-September, we suggest that you, first of all, stay a day or two longer during this period, as you may want to do most of your touring in the early morning or evening when the cruise ships are not around, and enjoy a leisurely lunch and rest before dinner, avoiding the crowds as much as possible. A nice lifestyle, but it might take a bit longer to see the sights on your bucket list, so the need for a little more time. Also, stay a bit out of the tourist center. We like Guidecca Island, only 300 meters from the center, across the Guidecca canal, easily accessible by boat, but almost a different world. Here many Venetians still live a normal residential existence, and most tourists never venture. Take a look at this short video of Guideccia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxmx3_e1BOs There is a really great world class hotel here, The Belmond Cipriani, which is special in almost all respects; views, food, facilities, and just plain class. It also has a beautiful pool, which might be much appreciated during the warm summer months. Another nice hotel, in another residential area, this time in the area known as Cannaregio, near the Jewish Ghetto, a great neighborhood full of real Venetians, nice restaurants and bars, and few tourists, about a twenty minute scenic walk to St Marks Square, is Hotel Dei Dogi, right on the water with one of the largest gardens in Venice.
Also, during high season, you might consider one of two luxury hotels on their own islands, the San Clemente Palace and the JW Marriot Venice Resort. Both are a 10-15 minute shuttle boat ride from the center and offer all resort facilities away from the hordes of day trippers. They offer real refuges during the summer season. Or you might consider staying on one of the lagoon islands, like Burano or Mazzorbo. Two great accommodations, under the same ownership are the Venissa Wine resort on Mazzorbo and Casa Burano, across a bridge on Burano. The former is a bucolic rural paradise on an agricultural island next to a vineyard with a couple great restaurants, one having earned a Michelin star, while the latter are restored small homes on the ridiculously quaint island of Burano, which have been turned into individual suites. You might use this as a base to explore the Venetian lagoon, which in any case is the “real” Venice, and to take day trips into Venice proper, 20 to 40 minutes away. You could also choose to stay in an apartment in any of the less trampled of Venice’s neighborhoods, or rent a villa in a the lagoon.
Now, let’s talk about the specific accommodation details!