When it comes to the world’s most romantic destinations, Venice is at the top of the list, even on a budget.
The tourism industry knows that romance equals money. But as a vagabonding couple with limited funds, we knew luxurious accommodations in Venice wouldn’t be an option for us. We resigned ourselves to this fact before disembarking the train. But good fortune shows up in unexpected places. A “tourist treat” we like to call it (much better than the alternative, a “tourist travesty.”)
We headed to the tourist information desk to get a map and begin our lodging search. It was well into the evening so we were anxious to get settled in somewhere. A short, well-dressed Italian man intercepted us. Little did we know it, but Giuseppe would be our ticket to our tourist treat. Noting our backpacks, he welcomed us with a big grin and asked if we needed somewhere to stay.
Taking a look at his crisp, white shirt, silk tie and black overcoat, we knew that whatever he was offering, we couldn’t afford. But we indulged him and said that yes, we needed a room, but we were on a bit of a budget. Without hesitation, he responded, “Will 40 euros work?”
Next thing we knew, Giuseppe, our new best friend, was leading us through the narrow, moonlit alleyways of Venice.
It felt like stepping into a fairytale. Crumbling, pastel facades of old buildings. Quiet sounds of rippling water. A cool evening breeze adding to an already dreamy atmosphere. Eventually, we reached a charming 3-star hotel. Giuseppe checked us in quickly and took us up to our room. After budget traveling for 2 months, the room was instant luxury for us. Fanciful pink walls. Rustic wooden beams. Romantic lighting. A huge, comfy bed. A nearby rate card listed the normal price of the room in high season: 200 euros a night (!) It was too good to be true.
And that’s when Giuseppe broke the news. We could only stay one night at the hotel. In the morning, we’d need to move to their sister property for the rest of our stay. “That’s it? How bad could the sister property be?” we thought. We agreed and happily handed over 40 euros. Budget travelers no more, we celebrated being true bonafide hotel guests.
The next morning, well rested and ready to start the day, Giuseppe greeted us to take us to our new accommodations. We followed him down a long, cobblestone alley until we reached a somewhat derelict building. Reality set in as our luxurious room from the night before faded into a distant memory.
Giuseppe unlocked the front door, which opened into a plain corridor. We followed him to the end where he unlocked another door, but could only get it halfway open. He awkwardly laughed, then stepped back to let us in.
Shoulder to shoulder, our eyes widened as we entered the 20 square foot room.
It consisted of bunk beds, a tiny desk and a wall that prevented the door from fully opening. There were no windows. It was officially a broom closet. Giuseppe’s head popped out from behind the door with a grin.
“It’s okay? The room?” he optimistically asked.
We stood in silence, slightly shocked. A tourist travesty for sure. Giuseppe’s face changed, looking more somber.
“I know this room is not like the last one. You are not obligated to stay here if you do not wish. I will not charge you…”
SIGH. How could we not accept? Honestly, the room wasn’t much different from our typical budget accommodations. We had definitely had worse. We had gotten our Cinderella moment and now, we were returning home after the ball.
“The room is fine.” we told him. And really, it was – clean, cozy. And hey, two beds instead of one. What else did we need? We hadn’t come to Venice to stay in a fancy hotel. We came to explore, see the sights and soak up the magical atmosphere. If anything, our broom closet gave us even more incentive to get out.
In typical first class fashion, Giuseppe shook our hands and stated,”If you need anything, please, do not hesitate to reach me.”
And with that, we watched him make his way back to the elegant boutique hotel where he rightfully belonged. Leaving us… well, in our humble abode, where we rightfully belonged.