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Venice's hotels are often accused of showing little charity toward the budget traveler, and their reputation may seem justified if you normally stay in a Motel 6 or a Holiday Inn back home. But it's important to remember that every towel, bar of soap, roll of toilet paper, bag of coffee, and loaf of bread must be delivered to your Venetian hotel by handcart or boat. Sewage may be stored in an underground cesspit and removed by barge. And labor isn't cheap in the Veneto region, which is the most prosperous area of Italy. In short, running a hotel in Venice is an expensive proposition, so it shouldn't be surprising that Venetian hotel rates are comparable to those in a large American city.

Still, there is some good news: Quoted rates include taxes, unlike those in the U.S. In most cases they also include breakfast, although--if you're on a budget--you can try to negotiate a price without breakfast and get your morning caffeine fix at a stand-up bar.

Where to stay

RoomsDistances in Venice are short, so location isn't as crucial as it might be in a city like Rome or Milan--unless, of course, you're burdened with heavy luggage and don't want to spend your last lire on a porter or water taxi. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

San Marco has an express vaporetto stop, and you'll disembark here if you come by boat from the airport. But it's also the most popular tourist area in Venice, with higher prices and bigger crowds than other sestieri or neighborhoods.

Hotels near the Piazzale Roma and the railway station are convenient for many travelers. However, the pedestrian routes between this area and San Marco are jammed with day-trippers in the summer and on holiday weekends.

Avoid hotels on the Lido unless you're interested in a seaside resort vacation on an island that allows cars.

For specific recommendations, consult an up-to-date guidebook. My own favorite hotel guide is Sandra A. Gustafson's Cheap Sleeps in Italy, but Frommer, Fodor, and the general guides on this site's Books page are also useful sources of hotel information.

Also see Where to Sleep in Venice at Venice for Visitors, where you'l find scores of links and listings for hotels, apartments, villas, hostels, religious institutes, and campgrounds in and around Venice.

Making reservations

When booking ahead, try to get a room overlooking a street or canal. Many of Venice's hotels are deep and narrow, with relatively few rooms exposed to daylight.

It's always best to reserve by phone, since letters can be slow to arrive and faxes may not be answered promptly. Calling Venice from North America shouldn't cost more than a dollar or two if you phone before 8 a.m. Dial 011 39 41, followed by the Venice hotel's local number.

Another option is the hotel association's reservations bureau at the railway station, in the Piazzale Roma parking garage, at the airport, or by the autostrada's Venice terminus.

Other accommodations

Venice has a youth hostel and campgrounds, but these won't appeal to you if you're a typical Baby Boomer. (After all, who wants to spend a vacation with somebody else's kids?) A better choice is a furnished apartment by the day or week, which will cost you less than a three-star hotel and give you the feeling that you're living in Venice.

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