Few cities boast as long a high season as that of Venice, beginning with the Easter period. May, June, and September are the best months weather-wise and, therefore the most crowded. July and August are hot (few of the one- and two-star hotels offer air-conditioning, and when they do, it usually costs extra). Like everything else, hotels are more expensive here than in any other Italian city, with no apparent upgrade in amenities.
A few peculiarities about Venice hotels have everything to do with the fact that this city built on water does not consistently offer what you might take for granted: elevators, light, and spaciousness. Venice hotels often have tiny bathrooms. The rooms are generally smaller than elsewhere and can be dark, and canal views aren't half as prevalent as we'd like them to be. This doesn't mean that a welcoming family-run hotel in an atmospheric neighborhood can't offer a memorable stay -- just don't expect the amenities of the Danieli or Grand Canal vistas. The least special of those below are clean and functional; at best, they’re charming and thoroughly enjoyable, with the serenade of a passing gondolier thrown in for good measure. Some may even provide you with your best stay in all of Europe.
It’s highly advisable to reserve your lodging as far in advance as possible, even in the off-season.
Anyone looking to get into the local swing of things in Venice should stay in a short-term rental apartment. For the same price or less than a hotel room, you could have your own one-bedroom apartment with a washing machine, A/C, and a fridge to keep your wine in. Properties of all sizes and styles, in every price range, are available for stays of 3 nights to several weeks.
In terms of location, San Marco is the most convenient part of the city, though anywhere near the Grand Canal will allow you easy access to the best of Venice. Apartments in the further reaches of Santa Croce, Cannaregio, Giudecca and Castello may be slightly cheaper and allow a glimpse of residential life in the city, but getting to and from the main sights will take a lot of time.
For those renting apartments, rather than staying in hotels, secure luggage storage facilities are available through BAGBNB (which acts as an agent for businesses prepared to look after your bags throughout the city), from 5€ per day (bagbnb.com).
Recommended Agencies -- Airbnb (www.airbnb.com), VRBO.com, and Homeaway.com are now major players in Venice, each with more than 300 properties listed. On Airbnb you can rent a room in someone’s home from just 25€ per night. Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com) is also popular and generally safe in Venice, though take the usual precautions (for those who don’t know the company, it allows locals to offer free rooms to travelers). Cities Reference (www.citiesreference.com; tel. 06/48903612) is the best traditional rental agency for Venice, with around 119 properties listed. The company’s no-surprises property descriptions come with helpful information and lots of photos. Cross Pollinate (www.cross-pollinate.com; tel. 06/99369799) is a multi-destination agency with a decent roster of personally inspected apartments and B&Bs in Venice, created by the American owners of the Beehive hotel in Rome. Rental in Venice (www.rentalinvenice.com; tel. 041/718981) has an alluring website—with video clips of the apartments—and the widest selection of midrange and luxury apartments in the prime San Marco zone (there are less expensive ones, too).
It’s standard practice for local rental agencies to collect 30% of the total rental amount upfront to secure a booking. When you check in, the balance of your rental fee is normally payable in cash only, so make sure you have enough euros in hand. Upon booking, the agency should provide you with detailed check-in procedures. Most apartments provide a list of nearby shops and services; beyond that, you’re on your own, which is what makes an apartment stay a great way to do as the Venetians do.
Hotel Bernardi -- Owner Maria Teresa moonlights as an English teacher. As a mother of three, she's the perfect host for families, who will appreciate the renovated rooms that easily pass as triples or quads.
Pensione Guerrato -- Young, euro-conscious families will enjoy the inexpensive rates of this former convent, where an informal and casual atmosphere is nurtured by the upbeat brothers-in-law who run it as if it were their home. Kids should get a kick out of being in the middle of the market's hubbub right on the Grand Canal and within steps of the Rialto Bridge. Spacious rooms are an added plus.