(All pictures are my own.)
In the summer of 2018 I decided to try housesitting for the very first time. I have been a member of House Carers since 2016, so I decided it was about time to try it out. I checked out some of the housesit notifications on the members' page, and ended up with a deal to housesit for a nice woman in Venice who needed someone to look after her Airbnb outlet for a week while she was on holiday in Britain. She had already had an American woman there for one month, but this other woman had to leave earlier than planned, so she needed someone tho housesit for the last week of her holiday.
I was really excited and thought it was a great opportunity, so after having checked flights and found that they matched perfectly, I booked my tickets and flew off to Venice in the middle of August.
I had never been there before, but the house owner sent me a lot of useful information about how to get to her apartment from the airport, and with the help of Google Maps on my cellphone and an exact route description, I had no problem finding it. It took me only 15-20 mintues to walk there from the bus station, and when I reached the front door of the house where the aparment was and rang the bell, I felt a rush of excitement when I heard a cheerful voice on the intercom by the door. It was Sally, the American woman.
She would be leaving the next day, but was waiting for me to arrive so she could show me everything I needed to know in order to take care of the Airbnb outlet in the best possible way.
Sally was nice, the apartment was nice, and I just knew that my week in Venice would be great. Sally showed me the local grocery shop and market, and also left me a very useful street map and guide and gave me some useful tips about some galleries and other interesting venues, along with some practical information about the vaporetto fares etc. In the evening we went to a very cosy restaurant in the neighbourhood, where we had a nice conversation over a delicious lasagna and some dessert, before we decided to call it a day and head back to the apartment. Sally had still a few things to pack and would be leaving early in the morning, and I had been up at the crack of dawn and was a bit tired after my journey, so we said goodnight early and went to bed. I slept on the couch in the living-room that first night, since Sally was still occupying the main bedroom, but when she had left the next morning, I could install myself in there with the few belongings I had brought with me. It was a nice room with an ajoining bathroom, so I didn't have to share bathroom with the Airbnb guests, which was nice.
From the hallway in the building where I was housesitting.
It was quite hot in Venice during my week there, but the apartment had air-conditioning, so coming back there after hours in the sun was always pleasant. I found a good rhythm to my days which suited me well.
I basically got up around 9 a.m. and had breakfast, and if there were Airbnb guests leaving in the morning, I cleaned the outlet rooms (one bedroom and a bathroom), changed the bed-sheets and made sure the room looked nice for the next arrivals, before I went out. My host kept me updated on WhatsApp about new guests, when they would be arriving etc, so I could make sure I was at the apartment to welcome them and show them the facilities, give them keys and tell them everything they needed to know about the shutters, the laundry machine, house rules, and so on. Apart from that, my time was my own. During my one week stay, there were only 2 new arrivals to tend to, since the guests all stayed 2 nights on average and there were a couple of days inbetween arrivals. Preparing the room and doing the laundry took maybe one hour of my time each time, so I didn't exactly break a sweat on that job.
All-in-all I have found that housesitting is a great way to see the world. If you want to find out more about it, you can check out my preferred housesitting organization, House Carers, here. (Please note that this is my personal link, so if you sign up for a paid membership with House Carers through my link, I will receive a small commission. This will of course be without any extra cost for you.)
There are several other similar organizations, like Trusted Housesitters and House Sitting World, but my personal experience is with House Carers, and I find it to be a very good and reliable organization to be a part of. That's why I recommend that you join House Carers if you're considering housesitting. You can join as an unpaying member first, and then upgrade at a very low fee if you find that you like it.
Now back to my stay in Venice (please note that this blog post is more about the benefits of housesitting and traveling light than it is a description of Venice as a destination. I'll come back to that later):
I spent the first day exploring the neighborhood. The first thing I did was to shop for groceries so I didn't have to go out for every meal during my stay. That's one of the great things with staying in an apartment instead of a hotel: You can prepare your own meals and save a lot of money on food, - money that you can spend on other things instead. You also have all the facilities you have at home, like a stove, a fridge, laundry machine, etc., - for the same price as a hotel-room. Other benefits: Being able to wash your clothes and hang them out to dry in warm weather makes it possible to pack less clothes, because they dry quickly - actually within a few hours - so you can wear them again the same day, if you want to. That's why, when traveling to Venice, I only brought hand luggage with me on the plane, which also made everything easier at the airport. No extra waiting to get my luggage checked in, and no extra waiting to pick it up on arrival. Traveling with a capsule wardrobe is highly recommended (more on that here ...), and if you don't want to carry with you any clothes at all (!), there's actually a solution for that, too: Renting a capsule wardrobe online and having it delivered at your preferred pick-up place on arrival! Want to find out more about that? Check out Trvl Porter here (this is not an Affiliate link). I haven't tried out their services yet, but it seems like a good idea if you want to travel luggage-free. You can sign up and make a profile with Trvl Porter and they will choose items according to your style preferences and size specifications, and ship them to your destination! How great is that!? I think it's pretty cool!
Like I said earlier: It was quite hot in Venice when I was there (late August), so I soon found out that I preferred to go out early (after the required work with the Airbnb rooms, if I had any that day) and spend a few hours walking around, visiting sights etc., and then head back "home" to have lunch and relax for a while. I spent some time uploading my most recent photos and maybe do some work on my laptop, check my email etc., and then I went out again for a few hours to do some more exploring.
In a way, I felt like I already knew Venice, even though I'd never been there before, because some years back, I had my own business from home, helping people writing, editing and proofreading their manuscripts etc., and one of my customers was writing a book about his many visits to Venice. He described it in great detail, so when I found myself staying in an apartment not far from the Campo di Santa Margaritha, which I had read so much about in his manuscript, and actually doing my grocery shopping in a store close to that square, I almost felt like it was home. And I found great pleasure in looking up some of the other places described in that manuscript, like the Ponte dell'Accademia (which was under restoration while I was in Venice).
There are many campos and churches in Venice, as well as galleries, museums and palaces, - so many historic buildings to be seen and photgraphed, so many narrow streets and pictoresque bridges across the canal ... plenty of interesting sights for everyone, really. It's a beautiful and unique city with lots of history and culture and romance about it, and I just loved it! But I do understand why more and more of the young people of Venice are moving out of there, as can be seen from recent statistics. Because living in Venice, especially if you're young and want to raise a family, can be a real challenge. Part of the reason is that there are so many restrictions when it comes to housing, or more precisely what you can do to a building, like modernizing it to meet the standards and needs of a modern, young family, - but also the many steps you have to climb around the city, wherever you want to go to take care of your daily errands etc. (there are more than 400 bridges). They're not really suited for young parents with babies in a tram.
But the tourist boom is probably the biggest challenge of all. It's been estimated that close to 30 million tourists visit Venice each year, and the combination of high prices resulting from this tourist boom, along with the logistics of the city and erosion from the water surrounding it, have taken its toll on the permanent Venetian residents and resulted in a decrease in their number.
There are 5-6 large cruise ships passing through the city of Venice every day, and they bring with them pollution and damage to the lagoon on which Venice sits. The city also frequently floods, and the flooding season, or "aqua alta" - a period of particularly high tides in the Adriatic Sea - runs from autumn to spring in Venice. The city has taken measures to regulate the number of tourists, but this has not helped much so far.
I'm glad I've been able to see Venice, and I was actually quite lucky when I was there, because I didn't find it over-crowded with tourists at the time and I didn't notice the "bad smell" that many have been talking about lately (due to pollution or bad sewage). So all-in-all, my housesitting opportunity came at the perfect time for me, and my memory of Venice is a good one. If you're thinking of going there some time, - if Venice is on your bucket list, - I suggest you do it sooner rather than later, - before the city is reduced to a "theme park" of historic buildings and tourist shops, with no permanent residents left to give the city it's authentic charm.
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I'm Else Kosberg, author, life designer and passionate globetrotter. I want to share with you my travel tips & experiences and hope-fully inspire you to travel more and maybe also start exploring the roads less travelled.