If your traveling wings have been clipped, travel to Venice virtually.
The current stay-at-home restrictions and the severe cutback on international travel are forcing people to think creatively to not go stir crazy. If you’re in love with Venice like me, how do you get a solid fix to tide you over until restrictions are lifted and people can even feel comfortable getting on a long-haul flight? How can you still escape to Venice?
Even we currently can’t travel to Venice, and we only live twenty minutes away by car or train. So close but so far away! That will change starting May 4 when we’re allowed to travel within our region (Veneto).
So, I felt like this was a great time to change the cadence of my blog posts and steer away from the heavy statistics and barrage of news coverage. I asked myself, “How can I help bring Venice to my buddies abroad?”
Pour yourself a glass of the good stuff, get comfortable, and immerse yourself in one of these following six great reads featured below. They’re six of my favorites, and I’ll endeavor to explain why and help guide you to the stories that appeal to you most!
Escape to Venice
Lucifer’s Shadow by David Hewson
Why I loved it: It’s dark, and I love dark as long as it doesn’t sideswipe restorative sleep. This novel kept me on my toes and guessing from the very opening. It’s a disturbing thriller that dances between modern-day and Vivaldi’s Venice. Centuries apart, two riveting tales of intrigue play out. In this page-turner, you’ll escape to old Venice when Jews were kept virtual prisoners in the Ghetto and when Vivaldi was all the rage. One tale involves a gifted young Jewish violinist who must find furtive ways to use her extraordinary talents in the face of great danger. When the story swings back to modern-day Venice, we follow an eager young academic who has arrived in Venice to work for the summer cataloging a private collector’s library. He soon finds himself in a maze of murder, jealousy, and greed.
The centuries-apart stories gradually come together for an ending that I didn’t see coming!
I love a good thriller that gives me historical context and education along the way. Be forewarned, this book may make you squirm, and you might find yourself being exasperated at the characters’ missteps. But that’s what makes a good story, right?
“In an ancient burial ground on an island off Venice, a young woman’s casket is pried open, an object is wrenched from her hands, and an extraordinary adventure begins.”
“One of the best mysteries set in Venice in recent memory…Unputdownable.” —Chicago Tribune
Escape to Venice
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
Why I loved it: One of the most enjoyable memoirs I’ve read, this story is about a woman who, through life’s twist and turns, travels to Venice, falls in love, and “finds the home she didn’t know she was missing.” Many Italy lovers already know of this book and have it on their bookshelves, so this isn’t great late-breaking information. I consider it an Italian classic. And I read this book a good nine years ago. It, along with other literary finds, and transportive movies served to pour more fuel on my desire to dismantle my American life and move to Italy. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t Italian fiction and this story really happened. It further ignited the flame that Italy, too, could re-render my life in unimagined ways.
Escape to Venice in the story of this author, Marlena, a divorced American chef traveling around Italy. She speaks Italian, but primarily Italian as it pertains to the kitchen. She’s convinced that romantic love is a distant speck in the rearview mirror and that she’s unable to swim in the depths of intimacy anyway. Then, an Italian man falls in love from afar when he first spies Marlena across the Piazza San Marco.
Food, wine, love, and unexpected outcomes make an ultimate recipe of satisfaction. If you love Italy, if you love Venice, and if you’re pondering a life change to move here, I highly recommend that you read this book. The author has since written several additional engaging Italian-themed novels. But start with this one. Get to know Marlena through this engaging memoir.
“An American chef meets the love of her life among the beautiful canals and exquisite cuisine of Venice—“better than a romance novel, it’s the real thing” (New Orleans Times-Picayune).
“An irresistible grown-up love story.” —USA Today
Escape to Venice
The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric
Why I loved it: Engaging historical fiction is hard to beat in my estimation. I harken to a story that transports me, entertains me, and educates me at the same time. The Floating Book does it all. So much is in this book that I struggle to write a worthy summary, so I lean on the experts at Publisher’s Weekly in their words below. This story set in Venice takes you to the time when the Gutenberg Press revolutionized book publishing and made its way to The Floating City.
This is a hefty novel. In fact, you might feel intimidated when holding it in your hands. Be prepared for a long, engaging read. At times you might feel that the story is heavy-handed (graphic sex scenes) but I never once wavered and arrived at the end quite satisfied and enlightened.
“Numerous characters and plot lines spin through this historical romance, but the real star is 15th-century Venice, a “transparent floating book, where the pages are concepts visible in colour. Not a thing of the mind, but a piece of beauty dedicated to the senses alone.” Situating historical figures like German printer Wendelin von Speyer alongside over-the-top creations like Sosia Simeon, a Serbian woman with an insatiable sexual appetite, Lovric spins an intrigue-laden tale of destructive lusts and mixed-up loves in the early days of the printing press.”
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Escape to Venice
The Glass Blower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
Why I loved it: This story is set in Venice and on the island of Murano, legendary in its exquisite glass artistry. It’s another artful interweaving of a stories from the late 1600s and modern-day. The story begins with an English artist, Leonora Manin, a descendent of Italian master glassblower, Corradino Manin, who comes to Venice to apprentice as a glassblower. In this story, we follow Leonara’s journey as she navigates a world and craft seemingly frozen in patriarchy. She only gets the apprenticeship by a boss intent on exploiting her ancestry.
As Leonara’s story unfolds, centuries-old jealousy and treachery threaten her dreams. Marina Fiorato has us dancing back to interludes that tell the story of Corradino Manin and the struggle he endured under draconian Venetian law. I learned so much of the history of Murano glass-blowing, including unsavory aspects of how the glass masters were virtually imprisoned on Murano by the murderous Council of Ten (learn more on wikipedia.org)
Romance also becomes an intriguing thread in this wonderfully rendered tapestry of a story.
I found The Glass Blower of Murano a vastly satisfying read and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.
“Those who enjoy intrigue and European history will be easily drawn into this romantic story.” (June) Publisher’s Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Escape to Venice
Vaporetto 13 by Robert Girardi
Why I loved it: It’s spooky. And that’s one of the things I love most about Venice. Spookiness is a quality that seems to seep through the ever-expanding cracks of a city full of decay. It floats through mist-covered canals and passageways. Vaporetto 13 leans into the ever-present but elusive spookiness. I love yarns that make me curl up protectively while reading it. This story gave me the creeps when I read it many years ago when living in California. I might test the waters and dedicate a day or two during cold, foggy weather in Venice and read this again. Is that tempting fate?
“Jack Squire, a currency trader on assignment from Washington, D.C., has taken up residence. On one particular autumn night, swirling with damp mist and moving shadows, Jack finds himself in a campo teeming with stray cats. There he meets Caterina, a woman bearing the sadness of centuries, whose strangeness immediately possesses him and whose past eludes and controls him.
Vaporetto 13 is a relentless and mesmerizing novel of one lover’s search for truth and the haunted city in which he finds it.”
Escape to Venice
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Why I loved it: I felt vividly transported to Venice well into the Italian Renaissance with a story about Fiammetta, a beguiling and resourceful courtesan and Bucino, her dwarf companion. They’ve escaped the 1527 sack of Rome and arrive in Venice to employ their best cunning to infiltrate the city’s society and lure men with Fiammetta’s incredible beauty and “talents.” Their rise is threatened by a lover who wants more than the nights allotted to him, and a Turk looking to add a human jewel to his sultan’s court. And then there is the crippled woman, a blind healer who worms her way into their lives and affections with dire consequences.
This story has been masterfully rendered and I felt, for a brief time, as though I was living amongst these characters.
Booklist provided a nice summary of this engaging novel:
*Starred Review* Following The Birth of Venus (2004), Dunant offers another lush and intelligent piece of historical fiction. The courtesan of the title, Fiammetta, has flourished in Rome, as have members of her household, including the dwarf Bucino. When Rome is sacked by German and Spanish troops in 1527, Fiammetta and Bucino flee to Venice and begin an arduous climb from dire need back to prosperity by reinventing Fiammetta’s career. The ministrations of La Draga, a young blind woman who has mysterious powers, aid in the recovery. But is La Draga a true friend or an enemy? Dunant’s portrait of Renaissance Venice–its life high and low, its sights, sounds, smells, and even some of its historical inhabitants (Titian being one)–is intoxicating, made even more compelling by the fact that we see it through the eyes of an unusually acute observer. The narrator, Buccino, plays the part of comrade, manager, servant, and exotic toy as the occasion demands, and his complicated relationship with Fiammetta is the heart of the book. Dunant is the kind of writer a reader will follow anywhere, trusting completely in her ability both to bring a time and place to life and to tell an enthralling story.—Mary Ellen Quinn
I will read every one that I haven’t read already. Thank you for the list, I love books set in and about Italy, the people the culture. Have you read The Forgotten Palazzo it’s non fiction about the Palazzo that Peggie Guggenheim owned. Best if your looking for an irreverent laugh you must read The Separate of Venice and it’s even better on audible.
Thanks, Jennifer, for the recommendation. I love an irreverent laugh. We need plenty of those these days!
I love your book list. Have you read “City of Falling Angels”?
I haven’t and I’ve just added it to my “must read” list! Thanks for the recommendation.
Thank you for the book list. Looking forward to reading them all.
You’re most welcome! I’m delighted that a comment from one of dearest followers added City of Falling Angels to my reading list. Happy reading!
I love, love, love book lists and I’ve been looking to expand as I have more time to read right now. I hope you’re doing well!
Great to hear from you Ellen! And I’m happy that you like booklists as do I. Happy reading. Stay safe and well! Jed