The Independent parent: your questions answered

How can our group find good-value accommodation in Venice?


Q We would like to go to Venice for three to four nights sometime this winter. Could you give me some information about suitable accommodation for myself, my friends (one couple) and their 11-year-old son in the city? They will want a family room and I will need a single. We would like reasonably priced accommodation but not too budget. We would consider other areas of Italy if the prices in Venice are too high.

Q We would like to go to Venice for three to four nights sometime this winter. Could you give me some information about suitable accommodation for myself, my friends (one couple) and their 11-year-old son in the city? They will want a family room and I will need a single. We would like reasonably priced accommodation but not too budget. We would consider other areas of Italy if the prices in Venice are too high.

J Hyncica, via e-mail

A "Reasonably priced" means something quite different in Venice from the rest of Italy, I'm afraid. It's always been a city where you pay more than the Italian average for hotel rooms, and get a lot less for your money. A standard double in a three-star hotel over the impending October half-term is likely to cost around €150 (£108) a night, including breakfast. Your party, of course, has specific and non-standard requirements. A family room, if you can find one, could cost €200 (£144), while a decent single room is unlikely to give you much change out of €100 (£72).

However, as with many other European cities, there is an increasing vogue for short-term apartment rentals, of which I am a firm fan. Unless you're blessed by travelling with preternaturally well-behaved children, staying and eating in hotels can be a constant trial of shushing and apologising. In an apartment, however, the 11-year-old is free to eat when he likes, bounce around on the sofa cushions and turn his GameBoy up as loud as he likes. In addition, the fact that you can cook for yourselves and make your own cups of tea (avoiding the spectacular prices charged by some Venetian cafés) means you can expect significant savings.

Venice Apartment Rentals (020-8878 1130; www.venice-rentals.com) is a UK company run by Ann-Marie Duffy, a well-travelled mother who knows the city inside out. It has a good range of mid-price and high-end apartments. Most apartments are rented on a weekly basis, but it is often possible to negotiate shorter periods, outside the peak seasons - especially in November, early December and January.

For example, the firm has on its books a comfortably furnished two-bedroom apartment in a 15th-century house at the entrance to the Campo Arsenale in the eastern Castello quarter. For four nights, £599 will get you a place with one double bedroom and one twin, a living-dining room with satellite TV, one bathroom, canal views and a particularly well-equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and washing-machine.

In the 15th century, the Arsenale was the busy site of Venice's main shipyard, but is now a quiet, tranquil area off the tourist trail. There is a waterbus stop two minutes from your front door, which will take you to St Mark's Square in 10 minutes.

Here you can take your friends' son climbing to the top of the 99-metre high Campanile for amazing views of the city. The old belltower is open daily from 8.45am-4pm. The admission price is €5 (£3.50). Follow this treat with a visit to the Palazzo Ducale (00 39 041 522 4951) or Doge's Palace opposite, which runs some surprisingly child-friendly, English-speaking tours. This includes a pleasantly spine-chilling sojourn in the 17th-century prison block. The palace is open daily except Wednesday from 10.30am. Tours cost €14 (£10).

Your friends' son would also probably enjoy the sparkling appeal of a visit to any of the glass-blowing workshops on the neighbouring island of Murano, where he will be able to see the masters at work. Try Linea Valentina (00 39 041 527 6644). Admission is free, but call in advance for opening times.

You say you are open to options elsewhere in Italy; nearby Verona would certainly be a cheaper alternative for accommodation, and has plenty of interest. But it is not so well served with cheap flights as Venice - through both the main airport, Marco Polo, and Treviso, north of the city. So on balance, I suggest you stick to Venice.

For further information on the city, contact the Italian State Tourist Board on 020-7408 1254 or see www.enit.it.

Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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