Venice on page and screen – books to read and films to watch before you go
My dog-eared copy of The Rough Guide to Venice & the Veneto has been stuffed into my bag on several trips, amazingly its spine is still intact and its in-depth detail pretty relevant. But I’ll be investing in this shiny new updated version before my next visit. Find it on Amazon.
The DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Venice & the Veneto is visually a pleasure. It’s worth the price alone for its palazzo-by-palazzo illustrated guide to the vaporetto journey along the Grand Canal. Lots and lots of photos and illustrations help to make sense of the art and architecture and little historical anecdotes bring the place alive. It’s a book that all the family will enjoy using, its not too big and heavy to carry around and it’s my Must Buy if you’re planning a trip of several days. Find it on Amazon.
Francesco’s Venice by Francesco da Mosto. This is for the coffee table rather than the hand luggage: a lively insider’s history of the city by a man whose aristocratic family have lived in Venice for 1000 years. Buy it here.
Historian and architect da Mosto is a gossip’y and compelling story-teller and fronted a BBC series of the same name. The Complete Series DVD, would be perfect viewing for anyone planning a trip. Amazon.
Stories set in Venice:
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi Marlena took a trip from St Louis, Missouri to Venice, met a man in a restaurant and two months later was giving up her business and selling her house to go and live with him on the Lido. I must say I was feeling the same way as her estate agent at one point “Oh dear, are you sure….” But for Marlena this is the love of her life. It’s a rich and colourful take on an American’s new life in Venice – with lots of foodie and local details thrown in. Buy it on Amazon.
Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers a thoughtful read set in Venice – on the most superficial level it’s fun to spot the references to the places and scenery you’ll be visiting yourself. A retired spinster schoolteacher rents an apartment in Venice and meets an attentive art historian who seems too good to be true. As she finds a lifetime of attitudes thrown into question her story is interwoven with the ancient tale of Tobias and the angel. It’s a subtle, elegiac book, not a bundle of laughs but with a haunting atmosphere that is quite at one with some of the quiet corners of Venice itself. Buy it on Amazon.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke what at first appears to be a straightforward children’s adventure story takes a magical twist… Readers will enjoy picking out one or two landmarks – I rather wish more were mentioned though. Buy it on Amazon.
Also: The Glass Heart by Sally Gardner, a children’s picture book, sadly out of print and not forgetting the literary giants: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann or The Wings of a Dove by Henry James. All available on Amazon.
And not about Venice:
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell I picked this up in the airport because I’d forgotten to pack something to read. Five minutes into the flight and I was engrossed. Its easy-reading, thought-provoking social psychology: is Bill Gates a genius, or was he simply lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time? Unfortunately I reached the chapter on Gladwell’s ethnic theory of plane crashes just in time for our flight home. Buy it on Amazon.
Films to get you in the mood:
Summertime 1955 I am ridiculously sentimental about old movies set in Italy. This is Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi falling in love all over Venice. KH apparently suffered from a string of eye infections after her dip in a canal, despite director David Lean helpfully pouring swimming pool chemicals in before the shot. Find it on Amazon
Don’t Look Now 1973 – or rather don’t watch now if you are of nervous disposition. Nicolas Roeg’s classic shock horror thriller stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie and Venice too at its menacing best. But I’ve never managed to watch it all the way through….. Amazon
Books and films set in Venice
For our sightseeing guide Venice: city break with teenagers Part 1 click here
Venice with teenagers Part 2: Day trip to Verona click here