Dreaming of Venice
Why Venice? Because, to my mind, Venice was uniquely beautiful, isolated, inward-looking and a powerful stimulant to the senses, the intellect and the imagination.
John Berendt, City of Falling Angels (extracts in city-pick Venice)
Venice inspires. From Canaletto to Casanova to the travel-dreamer imagining a sleepy afternoon gondola ride or a Bellini in Harry’s Bar. For anybody who longs to be in the city built on a lagoon, you can immediately, if temporarily, transport yourself to the canals, piazzas and back-street bars with a book and a bacaro.
City-pick Venice is an anthology of writing dedicated to Venice which brings together the words of, amongst many other great writers, Jan Morris, DH Lawrence, Mark Twain and Geoff Dyer. I asked Heather Reyes, the editor, what it is that captures the imagination of artists, film-makers and particularly writers: “I suppose the main thing about Venice that inspires writers is its utter difference from anywhere else in the world. I think all cities make one marvel at what human beings are able to achieve, but Venice even more so. The sheer technological achievement (especially 'back then') of not only building a city in water but making it such a beautiful city is awe-inspiring. I think the colours of the buildings and the particular light one gets from the proximity of water also add to the sense of beauty and 'difference' which inspires writers - and the fact that Venice offers a very different 'sound world' from other cities. Yes, there is plenty of noise in some parts, but without road traffic to contend with, the ears are given different human music - voices, echoes, the splash of water. And the fascinating and very particular history of the city has inspired many writers. The city has attracted many famous visitors and residents (permanent or temporary) in the past - as well as the present - and these provide ideal subjects for the historical novelists, along with the wealth of lush detail in costume, architecture, and traditions.”
Londoners can also have their taste buds inspired by indulging in the Venetian tradition of cicheti – small plates of food to accompany drinks – at Soho bacaro Polpo. My visit was a Campari Spritz blurred heaven as plate after plate of treats including Fritto Misto (battered seafood), Polpette (meat balls), chicken liver toast and a tasting portion of wonderful seafood spaghetti arrived. It’s crowded and conversation bounces off of the bricks and wooden tables ensconcing you in the world of the Venetian bar. Stepping back outside it’s a momentary surprise to find that you never left London at all.