My family and I travelled to Italy this past September. Our party included five altogether: my husband, myself, our daughter, her babysitter, and my aunt. We spent four nights in Rome and two nights in Venice. In both places, I would recommend lodgings that we found through the Rick Steves guidebook. In Rome, I contacted the Residenza Cellini. Gaetano, who is one of the owners, responded to my initial email and told me he had an apartment available. He sent me pictures, we loved it, booked it, and loved it five times as much when we actually arrived in Rome in a September heat wave. The apartment is in a quiet building near the Piazza Cavour. It is not huge, but it feels very spacious and gracious. There was definitely space for the five of us to move about. It was 98 degrees in Rome when we arrived. The apartment was lovely and cool. We found out talking to other travellers that even though their apartments or hotels said they had air conditioning, it was minimal. One couple told us that their hotel room only cooled down to 82 degrees at night with the air conditioning ON. Knowing that we had a wonderful place to come back to made a huge difference in our experience in Rome. We definitely took Rick Steves' advice and took advantage of the mid-day siesta time. We got an early start, went sight-seeing, came back, cooled off, then went out again in mid to late afternoon. Rome is a wonderful and busy city. It would be fun no matter what; but I think it was better because of Gaetano and his perfect Roman apartment. If you rent this apartment, be sure to use the #70 bus to get into the Forum area. Just one block away, the bus is easier and closer than the closest Metro stop. At the same stop, you can also catch the open air bus, which was perfect at 6:00 p.m and a surprise hit with everyone in our group.
In Venice, I would highly, highly the Pensione Guerrato. Near the Rialto bridge, it is incredibly friendly, clean, and so convenient.