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Venice Hotel Guidebooks

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We occasionally receive e-mail from readers who want hotel recommendations for Venice. We  usually reply by warning them not to rely on one person's opinions, but to consult several guidebooks. The reasons for this are simple:

  • No one but a guidebook author is likely to know more than a handful of hotels in any given city. (Let's face it: Without a financial motive, why would anyone want to inspect rooms in dozens of hotels?)
  • Different travelers have different hotel needs. One might be looking for a cheap, clean hotel near the railroad station; another might prefer an expensive hotel near the Piazza San Marco or a resort hotel on the Lido.
  • For most travelers, a trip to Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime or a once-in-a-great-while experience. Comparison shopping with the help of guidebooks is the safest way to avoid being disappointed by the accommodations where you'll be spending eight or ten hours each day.

Which guidebooks should you consult? All of the major guides are reliable enough, but you'll get more detailed information from two excellent guidebooks that focus on accommodations in Venice and Italy. Here they are:

Charming Small Hotel Guide - Venice, ItalyCharming Small Hotel Guides:
Venice & North-East Italy

Edited by Fiona Duncan and Leonie Glass
Paperback, 158 pp.
UK publisher:
Duncan Peterson
ISBN 1 872576 75 3

US publisher:
Hunter Publishing
ASIN 1556508972

This British guide describes "150 captivating small hotels, pensioni, bed-and-breakfasts, and self-catering palazzi" in Venice, the Veneto, Lombardia, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

The first part of the book is devoted to general information maps with call-outs that point to individual hotel locations. Each of the next 85 pages has a photo, several paragraphs of text, and practical information (such as prices) on a specific hotel or rental accommodation. The rest of the book is divided into half-page descriptions of properties that didn't make it into the main section.

The descriptions are refreshingly opinionated and even blunt. For example, the authors don't hesitate to mention that the Cipriani is "astonishingly overpriced" or that an inspector found some of the employees "churlish" at the otherwise charming Pensione Accademia.

Note: Charming Small Hotel Guides: Italy is available for travelers who venture beyond the Northeastern region, and the series includes volumes for other European countries. Each is slightly smaller than a Michelin Green Guide, for easy carrying in a handbag or coat pocket.

Cheap Sleeps in ItalyCheap Sleeps in Italy
by Sandra A. Gustafson
Paperback, 336 pp.
Chronicle Books
ASIN 081181839X

Sandra Gustafson's Cheap Sleeps series is the standard by which other budget guidebooks should be judged, and that standard is very high indeed. Ms. Gustafson's descriptions are as colorful as they are honest, as when she writes:

"The approach, up hideous green-linoleum-colored stairs, is not inspiring, and neither are the beat-up halls painted landlord green. Remember though, you don't live in the public areas but in the rooms, and for a one-star, the rooms are surprising: large and freshly painted with decent furniture and acceptable bedcoverings....If you can live with thin towels and metal phone-booth-style showers squeezed into the corners of the rooms, this is an agreeable Cheap Sleep that is presided over by Irma Maroder, a sweet woman who does not speak English but understands broken Italian beautifully."

Not all hotels in the book are low-end. Ms. Gustafson includes listings for two- and three-star hotels such as the Paganelli, Ala, and Kette. Student accommodations and campgrounds are also described.

As the title implies, Cheap Sleeps in Italy isn't just about Venice. The book also has extensive listings for Florence and Rome, for a total of nearly 150 hotels. And while it's a bit heavy for carrying around with you, it's perfect for selecting hotels in Italy's three most popular tourist cities before you leave home.

Note: Sandra A. Gustafson's companion volume, Cheap Eats in Italy, is also a valuable guidebook for travelers.

Also see:

Venice Books
Before you head for the library or bookstore, read this five-page summary of guidebooks, nonfiction, and popular novels about Venice.