Posted by: jeanne | August 9, 2016

picking over available housing in venice

first of all, i’d like to explain that venice isn’t your ordinary housing market.  most of the people who grew up there can’t afford to live there.  this is a common problem; the people who i grew up with all had to move 50 miles out if they wanted to stay in the area.  but venice, a true gated community, has an extremely limited supply of housing.  people who want to live there now have to fight with airbnb renters in order to get an apartment.  it’s not a pretty sight.  and the rates!  it’s like living in new york, or madrid, or paris, or amsterdam.  i know because i checked them all.

what happened was this.  we had a sweet arrangement with someone in venice to stay in their rental apartment for $1000 a month.  yes, that’s less than rents in my neighborhood at the moment.  of course we were depending on this bargain, because as artists we make shit for income, and can’t run up the credit card like normal people with jobs, because 1)we don’t use credit and 2)we can’t pay it off.  so we’re as cheap as we can be.  but being artists, there are always ways around the published price for anything, and we always look for it.

i took the rates i was seeing on homeaway, airbnb, vrbo, vacation rentals, and flipkey as merely advisory – a suggestion rather than a rule.  this allowed me to look at apartments i couldn’t in a million years afford – places that would cost $10,000 for two months – piano nobiles in palazzi with vistas on canale grande.  a whole lot of eye candy.  but this is useful, because by seeing a good range, i can learn the range of character in what goes for livable there.

so for the past three weeks i’ve been searching for apartments in venice city center, for three people, for two months starting in mid january.  over a hundred sites, i’m sure.  and every time i saw one i liked, no matter the price, i emailed them and asked how many stairs, whether there was a bathtub, things like that.  basically starting up a conversation with potential managers and owners of 1+ bedroom apartments, with wifi.  there are thousands, of course.  some of them have a lot of character.  some are very bland.

as artists we have a few requirements.  the apartment must be 1)cheap, 2)interesting, 3)room to make art, 4)a bathtub for connor, 5)a decent kitchen, 6)a view.  so i had a whole list of apartments on the cheap side (hahahahhaa around $7000 (or less) for two months).  i separated them out between ground to second floor apartments, and those up on the rooftops, and then further separated them into apartments with bathtubs, and those with showers.  i looked at anything that cost  my fancy within that range, and opened a new workspace and put all of those pages into it in two windows.  it was rather a mess to load, but it’s the future and i expect to be able to run a couple of hundred tabs without conflict.  hear that, firefox?

one of the reasons for keeping all these tabs open was so that i could review them constantly.  i needed to become familiar with each listing so that i wouldn’t be confused by all the thousands of wide-angled shots of living rooms that aren’t nearly as big as they look.  i had to scrutinize all the photos to be able to tell if that couch was actually in the kitchen, if there was a window in every room, if the kitchen was adequate, if there was a table we could move to the window to make our art on.  i needed to get a sense of the layout, to see if we could actually spend two months living there with connor and not go crazy.

of course, our budget wouldn’t get us any but the smallest of studios, and with connor and the need for a workspace, that was impossible.  several of our inquiries called up concerns by the owner/manager that the space was too small for us to be comfortable.  45sm is quite tiny, altho with me and sf i wouldn’t know from sm, and don’t tell me the secret, because i get confused easily.  is 45sm the same as 3x45sf??? or 9 times?  never mind. at $10k/mo i didn’t have to worry about square footage – i was on the piano nobile or mezzanino of a palazzo, wtf.

but first i had to buy airline tickets.  nothing happens without firm dates.

so i haunted wow airlines with my private browsing windows (because they all track your interest in a particular flight and then raise the prices just for you), and checked every day, sometimes several times.  i kept running the dates.  because with wow airlines, you buy legs.  there’s a via, from usa to europe, and back.  and then there’s legs so that you can do a stopover.  and everything changes from leg to leg – baggage cost, seat cost.

i searched for the best prices.  $149 from bwi-cdg was a constant; i never found a lower price.  and i found $80 legs from cdg-kef and kef-bwi, but no lower.  and i noticed as i perused that the available dates were beginning to disappear.  i was still waiting for one of their renowned $99 sales, but by leg i was already paying less than that, and also their sales weren’t yet for the winter months.  so i decided to go ahead.

with baggage and choosing our seats (in the back, with me at the window and jim and connor disported somehow next to me (i know, it’s incredibly selfish.  but i’ve got the camera, and i don’t sleep, and i’m the only one in the plane who sits there and gets a crick in their neck looking out the window for the entire flight)), three tickets on wow airlines cost us a grand total of $1421.82, and the tickets from cdg-vce (which i thought would have been cheaper with easyjet or ryanair) i got from airfrance for $394.48.  that’s…. $1816.30.  for three round trip tickets from the washington dc area to venice, italy.

that’s $605.  round trip.  to venice.  how can anyone not go?

so, our dates settled, i turned my attention back to the apartments.  it turns out that my dates were the same even after all that juggling on the reservations page.  so i sent requests for a discount to all the top tier apartments.  and it was a begging letter at that, because these were places that wanted $4000 to $7000 for two months.  and my budget was $2000.  i laid out what happened, said that this was the budget we were constrained to, which is true, and asked if it would be at all possible to make such a deep discount.  i apologized for the insult, but said we wouldn’t ask for any extras and would keep the place spotless, even with a five year old.

i got back mostly the predictable replies, which was are you fricking crazy?  carnival is coming up, and everybody makes a killing then, and you want how much?  one lady screamed at me for wasting her time; i apologized profusely and slunk away.  but most of them just said not possible, and several explained why (taxes, heating (i offered to pay for heat and never mind weekly linen changes) and damn are you joking?).  i felt really bad asking, begging.  but it is our actual situation, and people do make deals like that, and not having to check guests in and out and clean and wash the linens is a really nice thing to do for two months and still collect a paycheck.

so a large handful responded back within our range, which has miraculously expanded to $3200 for two months, to still give us a reasonable choice, whether we cheap out or rely on miracles once again (heheheehe).  this is for places with bathtubs.

of the eight properties that come within our budget, the most expensive is $3200, and that’s half the properties.  the other end is $2300, and that’s basically the other half.  baths and showers are evenly distributed, as are lower floors and upper floors.  it ends up being which one we like the best.  and the difference is $900.

because i’ve been casing the field for three weeks, i now refer to the properties by the name of the manager or owner i’ve been corresponding with.  the top four properties (with bathtubs) belong to pietro, pier, carola, and rita.  i like rita’s property the best, but i like carole as a person as well, and undoubtedly the boys are nice, too.  and i work things as much by human feeling as i do by things like money and setting.  and you must realize, to get a deal like this in a city like venice, encompassing carnivale (super high season) for anything near $1000 a month takes a miracle.  but i’m used to miracles at this point.  not to get cocky, but i live on miracles.  and the trick with miracles is that you have to expect them, to encourage them, to walk off the cliff and truly believe you’ll keep going unless you look down.  because fear kills the miracle.

so here is a little about each one.  we haven’t settled on one yet, and this is us talking aloud to each other trying to make up our minds.

this is the view from pier’s place.  he says we can stay for $(price deleted to protect owners).  it’s up at the top of a building within sight of my favorite house in venice, ca’loredan-grifalconi, on calle testa, opposite the hospital.  our ex-print studio was right there.  it’s kind of on the shabby side, but it looks out over a nice garden.  it’s 50sm, has a good kitchen, the couch is for connor, and upstairs it’s a double bed for us.  but there’s no bath.  and it’s on the 4th floor.

carola used to live in this flat in campo santa margherita.  it’s 100sm.  it’s got two bathrooms (tub!) and two bedrooms.  it’s on the first floor.  it gets noisy on the weekends because of all the students.  i really like it.  she will come down to $(price deleted to protect owners) for us, bless her.

Cannaregio apartment rental - Plan

then there’s pietro’s place among the rooftops in cannaregio.  two bedrooms.  bathtub.  it’s up near fondamente nova, 80sm, with a altana (a balcony!)  but reading the reviews, there’s no oven? no fridge?  at $(price deleted to protect owners)?  ak.  suddenly i don’t care how many steps there are to the apartment.

so, moving on, we come to the last of the top four (three):

San Polo apartment rental

now, doesn’t that just look like home to you?  this is rita’s place.  it’s in a palazzo in a quiet corner of san polo.  it’s 150sm.  it’s got two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  it’s got balconies, windows on both sides, and looks out onto a canal that debouches into the grand canal (down the way a bit.  within sight).

San Polo apartment rental - terrace

so, okay it’s the most expensive of my choices, at a whopping $(price deleted to protect owners) for two months, but oooh.  i don’t care how many steps.  there aren’t that many because the windows are large, and you don’t get that at the tops of buildings.  the reviews say it’s a lot nicer than it looks, and it looks fricking great.

we have other choices, and they vary, but they’re all places we could stand to live for two months.  we’ll bring connor in on the decision making as soon as we’ve narrowed it down to two or three, but i’m going to get jim to read this as soon as i post it, and we’ll talk about it until tomorrow.  i’ll send notes off to the final candidates and other notes to the others, and then i’ll send a deposit.


wee hah.

ps, after jim read this post, we eliminated the place with no fridge.  and went directly for the girls’ properties, which look eminently more comfortable, larger, and with fewer stairs.  there’s a big difference in price between the two, but i know which one i want.


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