He never mentions Venice, instead he describes all the other fantastic places he claims to have visited. But when Khan asks him to speak of Venice he replies: 'What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?'
Henry James as tour guide? He won’t lead you step by step, waving a pennant so you don’t get lost, but he does show the way. His fine, reverberating consciousness sets off a corresponding reverberation in the sympathetic reader, who can’t help but admire the way Italy liberates an appetite for sensual experience in this most cerebral of authors. – from “Henry James Walked Here,” by Adam Begley, The New York Times
I sit in that restaurant by the sea and talk and eat and laugh and listen to the boats slap the water and watch birds wheel in the sky, and I think, never in my life have I sat for so long so happily at a table. Just when I think I've finished eating, more food arrives. And when I think I've finished talking, someone says something else and I lean forward, wanting to hear more, to hear better, to hear everything, even (especially) if it's in a language I don't understand. When we watch people speak in words we don't quite comprehend, we pay more attention to their faces and their gestures, which have an eloquence all their own. – from “Amalfi Coast: a Moveable Feast,” by Elizabeth Berg, National Geographic Traveler
Where are we? In one of Rome’s “better kept secrets” as the travel guides like to refer to the third-floor apartment where John Keats spent the final months of his life. Officially this is a sort of a museum, but it feels more like a sanctuary, a place of literary pilgrimage where Keats-lovers have been known to shed tears when they are confronted by the tiny wooden sleigh-bed where the great Romantic poet finally succumbed, at the age of 25, to tuberculosis. – from “A Window to the Soul of John Keats,” by Stefanie March, The Times
The Glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009)
The lives of two glassblowers interweave in Marina Fiorato’s tale of the island of Murano, famous for its exquisite glass, and Venice. Master glassblower, Corradino Manin, transports readers to the late 17th century, while his descendent, Leonora Manin, arrives, anxious to begin a new life, in present-day Venice, only to find herself pulled into the "treacherous secrets" of Corradino. The Glassblower of Murano is a gift for all who love Venice.
The sun was lowering, the shadows enormous. The Campanile loomed over the square like the giant gnomon of a sundial; the loggias housed elongated arcs of light. Nora gazed aghast at the opulent bronzed domes of the Basilica – such decoration, such grandeur, a trove of treasure looted from the east. Here Rome and Constantinople had mated to bring forth this strange and wondrous humped-backed beast, an entirely new creature, a dragon of coils and spurs to guard her city. And, in contrast, the exquisite wedding cake of the Doge’s Palace, serene and homogenous, iced with a filigree of white stone. Only here would the Orologio, a clock made for giants, where golden beasts of the zodiac roamed across its face instead of numbers, seem fitting and in keeping. Nora felt as if she needed to sit down. Her head was spinning. She opened her guidebook, but the words made no sense – they swam before her eyes, the black and white facts an irrelevance when faced with this technicolour spendour. – from The Glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato
The first problem I had when I started writing a novel set in a 16th-century convent in Ferrara was that my spellchecker kept trying to turn the city into a car. It was one of many realisations that this history-rich place on the banks of the River Po is one of Italy's hidden treasures. – from “As Fabulous as Florence – and Not a Coach Party in Sight,” by Sarah Dunant, The Guardian
Calvino was a passionate believer in art as a force that could unite the disparate parts of the self - and thereby work to heal society. He thought that the civilised business of living together in peace and co-operation depended on endless creativity, not increasing control. He was on the side of imagination, not pamphleteering. For him, literature as a force going forward, postwar, would be a literature that could encompass everything - science, history, politics, fantasy, but would be in thrall to none of these. – by Jeanette Winterson, The Guardian
But perhaps the detective most associated with a particular city in our times is Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti, whose local beat is the mysterious lagoon city of Venice. When I was first beginning to explore this maze of a place, I planned excursions to discover the locations of Brunetti's apartment, the main police station (the Questura), his favourite bars, and other sites that had caught my interest from reading about his work. I was once rewarded, while watching from a bridge, by seeing a police boat arrive with a handcuffed suspect whom they were delivering to what I took to be Brunetti's office. (I didn't realise that the real Questura had moved years previously to the unromantic precincts of the bus terminal, and the old Questura in Castello reduced to a local station.) – Matthew Hoffman, The Independent
That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story, by Marlena de Blasi (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008)
While traveling one summer, author Marlena de Blasi and her husband accidentally stumble upon villa Donnafugata, a “somewhat ruined castle in the mountains of Sicily.” Their plan to stay one night becomes two, then three, and so on until they find the days passing and themselves moving with the rhythms of people and place. Curious from the beginning about the castle and its inhabitants, especially Tosca, the beautiful patroness of the villa, de Blasi is eventually trusted with Tosca’s story of love, crime, place, and refuge, a story passed on to readers, along with the sensuous daily “rituals of a humble, well-lived life,” in That Summer in Sicily.
Hollyhocks don’t grow in the desert. Yet hundreds and hundreds of their red satin blossoms line a wide stone path to a flung iron gate. I know this is a dream. Through the gate lie astonishing sweeping gardens. There are roses. Ivory and white and the color of burnt cream, they climb trellises and sprawl in beds, spill and ramble and entwine. Boxwood parterres, hedges of yew, clumps of lavender, fat and tall, and white foxgloves nod among white dahlias, among white peonies. I know that the castle and the roses and the hollyhocks are sun-stroke illusions. The hallucination will pass. We’ll climb back in the car and drive away from this madness of silence and mockery. But while the hallucination endures I want to look over there, where gnarled trunks of wisteria and jasmine and grapevines tent a pergola, make a dark, shady room from whose depths laughter comes. How many days has it been since I’ve heard laughter? Even my own? I walk toward the pergola, and stand at the opening to see a clutch of women in long black dresses who sit ‘round an oilclothed table. Tremulous light insists among the leaves, spangles the women’s fingers flurrying over a heap of yellow beans. – from That Summer in Sicily, by Marlena de Blasi