Posted by: jeanne | September 12, 2014

second steps to a venice residency

i have just finished two or three weeks of research into where to stay in venice.  this has involved refining our dates and thinking about who else is coming.  not just the various guests who take us up on our blanket invitation, but also the daughter and the grandson.

so we’ve decided we’re going to go for 3 months, or near as.  at first jim was saying six months, and i was beginning to stress out just thinking about the necessary arrangements.  but i found out that you can’t go for more than 3 months without a visa, and a visa is a big pain in the ass, where you have to satisfy all their suspicions in triplicate.  so we’re going for three months.  actually 89 days to be on the safe side.  and as it turns out, jim wants to catch carnival, so we’re going in the winter.  and as it turns out, the winter is about as serious as it gets here, only different.  by this i mean that it’s more humid, therefore more bitter.  it’s like our weather because in january it goes down to freezing at night, or nearly, and back up to 45 in the daytime.  and in february it’s 10 degrees warmer, and in march it’s 10 degrees warmer, and by april it’s in the 70s.  we’ll be leaving in the middle of january, and coming back in the early part of april.  that way we get the spring beauty of both venice and atlanta, and those are both special things.

when we were thinking of six months, one of the things i was going to have to arrange was to rent out our house, an airbnb kind of thing.  or craigslist.  but we can’t rent something out for 3 months, so we’ve got someone staying here, and he’ll be walking the dogs for him.  that’s a big item checked.

searching for an apartment for three months in italy is much harder than you would think.  using booking.com doesn’t work for longer than 30 days, so i looked at vacation rentals, like airbnb, homeaway, several others i forget now.  they quote prices by the night, and usually have a 2-night minimum, and the prices are lower than hotel fees, but only just, and nothing approaching regular rent, which is what we are looking for.  something like the rent we would expect to pay for our house.  something like our house, on craigslist, or airbnb, goes for vacation prices, so that’s $5000 a month, which we find ludicrous.  how about $1000 a month, $1500?

so i started looking on expat sites, searching for student housing, reading up on how to find a place to live in italy.  and i opened up each site that was referenced, and started searching.  i put these all into a separate window, on a separate workspace, and kept adding possibilities.

at first i was getting ridiculously small places for exhorbitant rent.  and then i started getting more interesting places.  i was looking for 2 bedroom places, and there are not lots of them.   there are lots of 1 bedroom with pullout sleeping couches in the livingroom.  but 2 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms, are rather rare.  not like hens’ teeth, but the pickings aren’t tremendous.  here’s a translation of real estate jargon.

but after a week of looking, i had a list of about 20, arranged by price.  it went from 700 euros per month for a student flat, and i’m not sure that wasn’t for the rental of one bed in a shared flat, to $17,000 for three months for really magnificent places with the most rococo decoration that the baby would just tear right up.  as i looked at each one, i tried to fit us all in there, happily living and working.  i always tried to see beyond the photograph to how we would set it up if it was us in there, where we’d put the studio, how we’d rearrange the furniture just like at any residency.  take a photo before you move anything, and put it all back when you leave.

i began by rejecting ground floor apartments because of the acqua alta problem.  evidently there are some areas of the city that don’t suffer flooding, but i don’t know where they are, and there don’t seem to be any maps of the topology that i can find.  all i could find was an interactive global warming sealevel rise chart, that showed the rise by meters.  after rejecting anything on the ground, i started rejecting things that weren’t high enough to catch the light.  we need light; we’re artists.  we don’t mind climbing lots of stairs to get to the light, either.  so i was paying particular attention to any apartments that had an altana, or roof terrace, or terraces accessible from the living room or kitchen or wherever, or even private gardens, or shared gardens.  selecting for light cut out a lot of dingy apartments, and left us with a range of interesting things ranging from $1300 a month to $7000 a month.

i put the really short list into another window and started sending out emails.  until just a few days ago i hadn’t contacted any of the owners or agents.  i was spending all my time trying to get the properties straight in my head, trying to decipher what they were talking about (a 4 bed room doesn’t mean 4 bedrooms, but 4 beds.  and 2 single beds don’t make a king.  things like that).  i find i have a rudimentary understanding of italian just because of my highschool french.  it’s familiar in a totally different way than icelandic is familiar.  in each email i said that we were a family of three (since at this point my daughter wants to come, but only for a month) including a 3 year old bambino, and that we were interested in their apartment because it was full of light, and could they tell me more about it.  this was the wrong approach.  a request that vague just got me an autoresponse, and a link to the same page i was enquiring about.  so i picked the four or five jim and i were really interested in and sent detailed requests for information.  does it have a bathtub?  can the baby fit thru the slats on the roof deck railing?  is your kitchen really fully stocked with equipment?   is the attic cold in the winter?

then i ran up against a little problem.  in italy, unless you’re doing special contracts, people want you to rent for 1 year minimum, and usually they want to rent it to you for 4 years.  there are all sorts of tenant and property laws here that i don’t understand.  this isn’t a problem with the vacation rental market, but i was looking at casa.it and other italian real estate agencies, and at this point i was guessing in italian and google translate because there was no little english language button.  so i eliminated a whole lot of rather cheaper possibilities.  and that left me back with the vacation rental agencies.

now it’s down to two.  there’s this great place way remote, down on costello, facing the water.  it’s a ground floor apartment, and it’s only got 2 bedrooms (that’s sleeps 5), but it’s next to a park with a childrens’ playground, and it has a private garden, and that’s all good for the baby.  and there’s this other place, right in the middle of san marco, tourist central, but it’s 4 flights up, and three double bedrooms (sleeps 6), with a mansard attic where jim’s studio would be, and an altana.

so there’s our choice.  countrylike rurallike family comfort, or smack in the middle of everything spacious plenty of room and plenty of light.  there’s a thousand dollars difference in the two rents for the three months, but both of our choices were among the cheapest rentals we looked at, and will run us considerably less than the $10,000 were were going to have to spend for an actual official artist residency at one of the artist residencies in venice.

we are still applying to the two residencies that will take children, but this will be for next year.  there’s not a chance in hell they’d have space for a few months down the road, so we’re not going to try for that, but we will attempt to set it up for the future.

okay, i’m going to bed now.  we will make our decision tomorrow when we hear from both of the places.  the guy with the ground floor has been very forthcoming with his answers, but the lady with the attic in town still has to contact the owner to check on the dates, so i’m waiting until i hear from them both before finding out what my gut thinks.  my gut, my little voice.  and i’ll get some feedback from the elves i brought back as well as the ones i then discovered living all around me all the time anyway.  maybe some of them will come with us when we go.

***

updating it by a day, we have decided on the smaller flat that is more remote.  we realized that we were going to be right in the middle of carnival madness if we stayed in san marco, and that in order to get a reasonably priced meal we would have to go to another district.  we looked up how long it would take to walk in from san elena (37 minutes to san marco, 30 minutes to rialto (plus the house is on a vaporetto stop so we could also NOT walk).  we thought about guests, and how likely that wasn’t.  we thought about the grandchild being cooped up on two levels and never allowed on the roofdeck, versus having an enclosed back garden and ready access to a playground.

also, there was the annoyance factor.  the guy who owns the ground floor flat was very responsive, while the agent in charge of the flat around the corner from san marco was much cooler, getting back to me a full day after every email, in italian, with very brief nonchalant emails that begged more questions than they answered.  i sent both properties emails saying i’m very interested, please send details, and got complete bank instructions from the guy with the house, and don’t even know the price on the walkup in town.  but basically it was the thought of being able to get away from it all.  we’re going to be there for three months, we don’t want to burn out, and we want to learn a neighborhood instead of fleeing it because it’s got more of us cramming the corners.

but see how hard this decision was.  here are the floorplans from both of the choices

house mansard

one of them has four rooms, a central hall, a walled garden on the north side of the house.  the other one has two floors and a roof deck.  one’s on the ground level, the other is four flights up.  one overlooks the bay, the other is jammed in the middle of red tiled buildings as far as the eye can see.  one is remote, the other is in the thick of things.  my daughter, no surprise there, wants to stay in the one with three full bedrooms and doesn’t want to know about the other with only two bedrooms and a pull out couch.  when i think about hundreds of friends descending on us i desperately want the one on two levels, because we’ll just hide in the attic and make art.  but when i think of us as a family it’s really no contest that i want to be in the smaller houselike place.  besides, it’s a little too neat in the pictures of the larger place.  i can just see connor with a crayon.

so now all we have to do is figure out how to wire money to an overseas bank, and we have our house.

next stop, airline tickets and trip insurance.

***

ps.  i am still waiting to finalize the apartment.  people don’t seem that rushed.  my soon to be landlord went off to paris this weekend, and i called him in the middle of a loud restaurant.  and the woman with the attic splendor apartment kept giving me new information about the cost all the way thru the weekend, a little at a time.

turns out there’s no bath in the downtown apartment, so spacious as it may be, we wouldn’t have wanted it.  and the cost keeps going up.  on the website (the italian website, for locals) it’s listed at $1300 a month.  i was quoted $2000.  and now i’m told that i have to pay monthly utilities that might run 100-200 euro a month.  plus 10% of the total rent to the agency.  so that’s just a little more expensive that the other apartment, which we do intend to take.  and it irks me that we didn’t hear about it until the end.  of course, i didn’t ask about it until the end, either.  with the other place, the one we’re taking, the guy gave us a price that was less than the website quoted (because of 3 months instead of a couple of weeks), and included everything (except maybe for the hotel tax the government levies per person per night).

at the moment, i’m following the advice of the rental agency, which i believe is homeaway, and talking to the renter personally before forking over a deposit.  and he’s a busy guy, with 7 properties.

 

 

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