Renting a private palace (or part thereof) in Venice can sometimes seem a cloak-and-dagger affair. It can also be expensive—weekly rentals for a Grand Canal residence start at around $10,600 a week, with prices running up to almost $40,000 during high periods like Carnevale and early summer. But a quick comparison of square footage and inventory of the master suite’s antiques will often reveal considerable savings over and above the city’s top hotels.
These days standards are improving, with WiFi and air-conditioning making their way into the fabric of historic buildings, but the usual caveats can remain—small bathrooms that aren’t en suite, staff who don’t speak English.
That’s why a middleman is key to help smooth out the creases. Top Venice rental agents include Cedric Reversade (44-207/788-7815; cedricreversade.com), who specializes in a highly edited crop of the most exclusive houses, largely Grand Canal palazzi, for which he supplies his own concierge and staff. Views on Venice’s (39-041/241-1149; viewsonvenice.com) Filippo Gaggia, meanwhile, owns one of the city’s best rental palaces and also has a citywide roster with an accessible range of prices. And Italy travel specialist Emily FitzRoy’s ever-deepening knowledge of the city has led her company, Bellini Travel (44-20/7602-7602; bellinitravel.com), to seek out unusual finds in less obvious neighborhoods. The result of this diversity is a wealth of newly available properties, each with its own appeal.
The Hidden Gem
If there’s a trend to speak of, it is in the high-quality spots emerging off the tourist-heavy drags. New this year is Madonna dell’Orto, in Cannaregio, a ten-minute walk to the Rialto and 30 minutes to San Marco. It occupies an impeccably restored private cloister adjacent to the church of the same name—a place dearly loved by Tintoretto, who not only painted the organ and the choir but also chose to be buried there along with his wife and son. (His tomb is literally on the other side of the cloister’s wall.) The apartment, which has been in the same family for more than 200 years, is composed of a main house with two double bedrooms as well as a mezzanine-style one-bedroom guest cottage that sleeps two. There’s also a small walled garden filled with roses and wisteria. The entire residence, including maid and gardener, costs from $3,300 a week. For more information, contact Emily FitzRoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New Ancient
After a recent top-to-bottom renovation by conservation architect Andrea Gaggia ( email@example.com)—who is himself a key contact for Americans interested in buying historical properties in Venice—the Grand Canal’s Palazzino Alvisi is now available four weeks a year. It’s among the best palaces on this thoroughfare, combining spirit, history and sheer Venetian glamour, as well as something so often forgotten by palazzo owners: livability. (Artist Maira Kalman stayed there while working on this issue’s “The Carnevale in Venice”; her illustration of its piano nobile appears in the article.) With the white basilica of the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in its viewshed, the home has interiors featuring dark gold damask in the drawing room and landscapes by Carlevarijs, Zuccarelli and Guardi throughout. The 18th-century Venetian chairs, armoires and tables are complemented by a large silver collection, including tureens by Parker & Wakelin and Vladier. There are 17th-century Venetian mirrors, too, plus pink terrace furniture from the thirties by Count Mantegazza. The house sleeps up to six (or more, if need be) and comes with Elena, a formidable cook. All the modern conveniences are in place but out of sight: air-conditioning concealed in period cornicing and a television screen hidden by a gilt-framed 18th-century canvas. Prices upon request. For more information, contact Cedric Reversade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Contemporary Hideaway
There are only a few reliable people who rent their properties directly, and Roman decorator Ilaria Miani is chief among them. Together with her husband, Giorgio, she created a series of impeccable villas in Tuscany and just this spring completed Calle delle Erbe 272, a $650-a-night two-bed pied-à-terre on Giudecca. A showcase for Ilaria’s colorful, contemporary style, this pretty little house combines an open-plan living room, canal-facing double French doors and a private water entrance with all the technology one could want, including a stainless-steel Boffi kitchen, WiFi, satellite TV and air-conditioning. For more information, contact Giorgio Miani at email@example.com.
The Firm: Location Managers
Another company with top Venetian properties, Lanza e Baucina orchestrates extraordinary events. (Partner Riccardo Lanza was the man behind the wedding of Salma Hayek and François-Henri Pinault.) One of its favorite spots is a little-known Palladian cloister that’s near Piazza San Marco and ideal for large celebrations. 44-207/738-2222; lanzabaucina.com.