To Live in Venice

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

In our unique situation of being homeless for more than five years, I expect that we look at most destinations differently than other tourists in that we sometimes value a place based on our desire to live there. And being the rose-rimmed people that we are, the answer is often yes (at least for a short term). There are rarely places that we don’t like and write off immediately.

But to put Venice under such a microscope is a tough one. All the extraordinary things that make the city a wonder for tourists may also be that which makes it unbearable as a resident. The island poses many confusing contradictions: a slower pace with the lack of cars, yet home to such a thriving tourism industry that the tiny streets become clogged with millions of annual visitors. The canals, adorned with vibrant old-world buildings that appear to float on them, cause heartless humidity and highlight its obvious fragility. Venice is sinking, some say at up to a rate of almost eight inches every century and flooding is a regular occurrence.

All the extraordinary things that make Venice a wonder for tourists may also be that which makes it unbearable as a resident.

Sunset on a Gondola
Rio Alto View
Gondola Parking
The island is sinking and the population is shrinking. Less than 60,000 still inhabit the city, and more than that many step off of cruise ships each day to snap selfies, buy souvenirs, and be on their way. And it’s not likely that those souvenirs are even in support of the artists who live there, but instead are cheap knock-offs imported from the east. Venice’s economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism, but struggles to find balance with it.

While only a couple of kilometers wide, it can take up an hour to cross the small island, given the maze of tiny streets and bridges. Food is much more expensive than on the mainland, plus the groceries, and any other purchase for that matter, are most often lugged in shoulder bags from market to home. Bicycles are allowed only for children.

Morning Commute
A Break
Venice Windows

Streets of Venice
I would suppose that to enjoy living in Venice would be to accept it as a challenging lifestyle and a specific way of life. After awhile, it would all likely seem very normal, similar to how this vagabond lifestyle has become for us.

I expect it would be worth it (especially for being able to see this best view in Venice on the daily). Not only is Venice the pure definition of romance (maybe even moreso than any other place we’ve ever visited), and any place that requires rowing as a livable skill would be acceptable by us.

(For a little while, at least, which is our answer almost every time we pose this question. Venice is a bit of a “thinker” though.)

Gondola Ride
Venice Facade

How to do it

We learned about the life of Venetians as a part of our Walks of Italy tour, which also included a gondola ride. (The cost of a gondola ride on its own is much more expensive then the cost of this entire tour! Very worth it.)

Where we stayed

Finding affordable accommodations on the island can be difficult (and we left it far too late as well, book early)! We found this one to be a bit crowded but okay for the short time we were there. It was near a bus so easy to get into Venice.

Haven’t tried Airbnb yet? Sign up through this link and you’ll receive a $25 credit (and we’ll get a little something as well, thanks for helping!) 🙂


High-end The incredibly elegant Gritti Palace has unbelievable views of the canal, a great restaurant, and is overall an amazing experience. – Book this hotel –

Mid-range Hotel Al Codega is a great boutique hotel option where the service feels personalized. It’s located right between St Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge, but is away from the hustle and bustle on a side street. – Book this hotel –

Budget  The hotel keeper at Alloggi Barbaria speaks 7 languages, and would be more than happy to give you a map and tell you how to get around the city. The rooms are simple, but a continental breakfast is offered before you take on the day. – Book this hotel –

12 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Wynne
    November 17 2014

    I think I’d have to agree – it seems like it would be difficult to live in Venice year-round, but what a gorgeous place to visit!

    I, too, stayed in an AirBnB on the mainland, about a 5-min. walk to the train to Venice. Super easy and more cost-effective!

    I will definitely go back someday…

  • November 17 2014

    My first time in Venice was embellished by the presence of local friends, who had to call the floating city their home. They all agreed it was not particularly easy to find balance between the romance and the mundane. Nonetheless, they all loved living there, and were able to find personal spaces away from the encroaching crowds. This led to one of my first Venice lessons: the city is small, but only geographically. Somehow, the city is able to spread itself into multiple layers – where shuffling feet lead to emptiness and a lone cat splayed under the sun as soon as a corner is turned, or where the daytime rush can lead to musical piazzas lit by moonlight. But I love Venice with the passion of a youthful spirit and the abandon of a fool, and am therefore as unreliable as the city itself. Gorgeous photos and text, as usual. Thank you and good luck!
    Lunaguava recently posted..18 Travel Truisms (or random nonsense)

  • The sheer volume of tourists (and pigeons) would put me off! Might be nice to live there in Autumn or Spring when there are less people visiting
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..Hiking the Hillary Trail on Auckland’s wild West Coast

  • November 17 2014

    Stunning photos as always. Love the one of the man crossing the bridge. I’ve yet to go but want to someday, hopefully soon.

    I had a friend propose to his girlfriend on a gondola ride. Kinda cheesy but oh so romantic and lovely!

  • Denise
    November 18 2014

    Stunning photos. Yes, I always wondered what the locals thought about living in such a place. I think I’d find it annoying.

  • November 18 2014

    I just did a Walks of Italy tour in Florence! It was so informative — I don’t think I’ve ever had a more passionate tour guide. Gorgeous pictures! I’m especially loving the one of the man crossing the bridge. Beautiful!
    Katie recently posted..Boutique Hotel Spotlight: Hotel Santa Caterina.

  • November 18 2014

    Beautiful photos and interesting post. I would love to visit Venice, actually I look forward to the day when we spend considerable time exploring the entire country. I can’t imagine living in Venice as on one hand it seems to be such an unique city, but on the flip side it seems so impractical.
    Patti recently posted..Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep!

  • November 22 2014

    Beautiful photos, still life and and street scenes! Looks like you got a great deal with the tour and gondola ride! Thanks for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..26 Wonderfully Weird Animals Around the World

  • November 27 2014

    Hi Guys!
    Great post!
    If you would like detailed information from a Venice local, let me know. I grew up in Venice with my American family (one of the very few American families there without a Venetian mom or dad) and can tell you all the ins and outs of the city. I was there from age 7 – 14 and left last year to travel the world like you are doing. Venice is VERY special to me and I would love to share my childhood home with you and your readers!!

  • December 1 2014

    We love Venice, and have gotten happily lost in the maze of its narrow streets on several visits. But it’s probably very different to see Venice as a visitor versus living in the city. For one thing, we understand it’s outrageously expensive for most locals to live in the city (they live outside and commute in to work in the shops or restaurants). In a way it’s too bad that tourism has turned Venice into such a tourist city – it’s nice when there’s an authentic feel of people living, working and going about their lives in a real city (e.g., Rome). But this doesn’t mean we wouldn’t happily return to Venice to get lost in its streets again :-).
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..The remarkable flight of the Monarch butterflies

  • December 14 2014

    How strange to not be allowed to ride a bike.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..How to make the most of a road trip

  • Jade
    December 25 2014

    I loved Venice, and found if you start you wander down the small alleys and side streets you can easily avoid the majority of the crowds. We stayed outside of the city though in a quiet campground, which probably allowed us to refresh away from the crowds so we could deal with it easier.

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