I've just found a 'new' Venice film: Avenger of Venice (Il ponte dei sospiri).
Brett Halsey went on to appear in everything from the Dukes of Hazzard to Godfather III, but in this obscure little number from 1964 he plays a Doge's son framed and arrested for a murder who escapes and sets about his revenge, of course. A review elsewhere mentions him tunnelling out, tunnelling underground always being an interesting activity in Venice, there being no ground to tunnel through. I've ordered a DVD from a shady online supplier, so expect a review soon.

I've managed to track down a similar DVD of The Lost Moment, a somewhat loose adaptation of Henry James' The Aspern Papers. Mission to Venice (Agent spécial à Venise) is also from 1964 and is based on a James Hadley Chase novel, presumably See Venice and Die. This last one I'm having trouble getting hold of as the DVD supplier I found doesn't ship outside the US. It stars Sean Flynn, son of Errol and actress Lili Damita, who was the subject of paternity wrangles his whole life and died at the age of 30 in Cambodia whilst working as a photographer during the Vietnam war, missing presumed killed. He was also the subject of a Clash song, Sean Flynn, on their Combat Rock album.

Further to the searchings mentioned below (and subsequent requestings) you can expect a bit of a reviews flurry in the coming weeks. I'm currently reading The Sign of the Weeping Virgin by Alana White which is set in the Florence of Lorenzo il Magnifico and centrally featuring the Vespucci family - it's shaping up well. Then through the letterbox this morning came The Eyes of Venice by Alessandro Barbero - a tastefully turned-out volume that has promise. Also promised is The Hoard of the Doges by Jennings Wright. And I've managed to get hold of a copy (with subtitles) of a film called Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano, which came out in 1969, was never released in the UK or USA, and which features Wilfred Bramble, aka Albert Steptoe! Casanova is played by Leonard Whiting, Zeffirelli's Romeo.

I'm not hopeful that 2013 will see scads of good new novels set in Venice. A quick search on Amazon reveals nothing next year, but a good number of new self-published novels for the Kindle with Venetian settings, which mostly appeared during last November. Nothing very original or tempting-looking, but if any of you out there know of any hidden gems lurking amongst them do let me know. I was tempted by one, but the blurb compared it to the work of Susan Dunant, which didn't inspire confidence. One is also entitled Casanova Phantasm Orgasm, I kid you not. But have no fear - this just gives me an excuse to whittle down the backlog of old stuff by my bed, including some earlier Edward Sklepowich novels donated a while back.


My CDs of 2012
Oddfellows Casino The Raven’s Empire
Best Coast The Only Place
Milo Greene  s/t
Grimes Visions
Urusen This Is Where We Meet
Calexico Algiers
Kaki King Glow
Ensemble Unicorn Chominciamento di gioia: Virtuoso dance-music from the time of Boccaccio's Decameron
Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall Llibre Vermell de Montserrat - a fourteenth century pilgrimage
Paul O’Dette John Dowland - Complete Lute Works

The big surprise this year was my becoming totally smitten with Early Music. The last three weren't released this year but reflect the types of music that most smote. The Ensemble Unicorn and Hespèrion XX are that joyful fiddle-and-sackbut style that you expect from Early Music, the Llibre Vermell was the source of my fave tunes of the year, and is mostly choral.  John Dowland's lute music is just the best. Jordi Savall's recordings dominated - from Orient-Occident folk-classical mixtures to Baroque viol stuff, he's pretty darn good at most things.

My Books of 2012
Chad Harbach The Art of Fielding
Andrew Miller Pure
Richard Russo The Bridge of Sighs
Hilary Mantel Bring up the Bodies
Carlos Ruiz Zafón The Prisoner of Heaven
Richard Ford Canada
Linda Proud A Gift for the Magus
Jonas Jonasson The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed
Out of the Window and Disappeared

Lawrence Norfolk John Saturnall's Feast
Justin Cronin The Twelve
 A. M. Homes May We Be Forgiven

Not a bumper year for stories set in Venice. Florence seemed to do much better, or maybe it was just me and my slight retreat from Venice this year. A year full of mighty fine fiction nonetheless
. Just after I'd whittled down to 10 I read the A. M. Homes - the best book I've read in years, so 11 books it is, in chronological order of reading.

In other media news... Emma Thompson's long-gestating and very Venice film Effie, about John Ruskin's wife, now has a release date of March 2013. This is not the first such date to be announced, but as this one is in the same month as my birthday and the publication of a book called World Film Locations: Venice to which I have contributed several reviews and the introduction, the omens are looking spookily good.

News of the subtitled appearance, at last, of the last three episodes of the German TV adaptations of Donna Leon's Brunetti novels. MHz in the US will broadcast episodes 16-18 ( Suffer the Little Children, The Girl of his Dreams, and About Face) in March 2013. There's no news of when they'll release these episodes on DVDs, but they surely will. No new episodes have been broadcast in Germany since About Face.

The satisfying thump of a proper book coming through the letterbox this morning heralds the arrival of that rare thing - a work of fiction set in Florence that isn't a crime novel or a tale set in the Renaissance. It's by Nancy Huston and called Infrared and you can expect a review soon. Later this morning came the equally pleasurable sound of the doorbell heralding the arrival of a parcel containing my new Kindle Paperwhite which is charging and filling up as I type. More on that later too.

Anyone read The Jewels of Paradise, the new, first non-Brunetti, novel by Donna Leon yet? It's getting some sniffy reviews on Amazon, but whether these are just people in not-Brunetti shock isn't clear. I have it reserved at my local library, as I've given up on getting review copies out of Heinemann, but I've whinged about that enough before (makes lip-zipping gesture). Not much else to report, or look forward to, in the field of Venice-set fiction though.

Home from a Florence that felt warmer than the UK has all summer, to a London where it feels like the central heating's going to have to go back on soon. Still the longer evenings will help with the watching of the Autumn TV glut, and the pile of Blu-rays I came back to. (Quai de Brumes, Les Enfants du Paradis, and the (Marvel) Avengers boxset, since you ask.)

I've made the episodic daily reports from Florence on the facebook page into one elegant page here. And I'll be putting all the photos I took of the churches in Florence up on the Churches of Florence site, revising (finalising?) the list there and adding the new visit reports. And then its back to the basic job of writing interesting stuff about each church.

I'm off to Florence on Wednesday - my plan is to do a daily trip blog on the Friends of Fictional Cities and the Churches of Venice
facebook page and to fill up an album of photos there too. I'll then make a traditional trip page on this site when I come home. This is all so I can avoid lugging a laptop and stick with my iPad. I'm hoping to get near to finalising the list on my Churches of Florence site, with at least one photo of all of them. There's worse jobs!

And then, to cock a snook at my depressed evaluation of the Autumn's  prospects for Venetian fiction in my last post, comes Venetia - a supernatural thriller set in Venice by Simon Barnes. Click on the title for more info and a read of the first chapter. The author seems to be an authentic and long-standing Venice fanatic so I look forward to a read free of topographic cock-ups and full of spook. Although his claims of Veniceophilia are somewhat dented by his saying he's only just discovered this website! Safely installed on the old Kindle, so expect a review soon.
The summer lull continues with, as ever, September to look forward to for TV series starting, music releases hotting up, my Autumn trip, and hopefully some interesting books published. A quick 'Venice' search on Amazon UK doesn't exactly get the pulses racing in anticipation though. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander features a heroine with a husband who's described as dashing and centuries-old puzzles to solve, but may be better than its blurb suggests, and The Venice Conspiracy by Sam Christer has such a generic title and cover I thought that I'd already read it. And due to be published in August 2013 there's Secrets from the Past, a new Barbara Taylor Bradford set in Venice and Libya and with a heroine called Serena Stone. So, let's keep our hopes high for the sudden non-Brunetti novel The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon, due out in October.

Amongst the non-fiction there's a new history and another cookbook, but the  undoubted highlight is World Film Locations: Venice, which has an introduction and contributions from...ME!

I'm just back from a few fruitful and art-filled days in Paris, during which I didn't eat much fruit, but did go to interesting exhibitions and large galleries. I trip-blogged about it on this site's facebook page, but I've decided that I'm going to make the entries (and the similar postings I made when I went to Vienna in May) into trip pages here. I hesitated as the two cities, well, aren't Venice or Florence, but I think I need to rationalise my trip listings and menu-make, and why not add the other cities? It's not like I'm making anyone read them. Also putting the entries up daily on facebook first and then expanding and page-making later might turn out to be the way I go for all trips in future, as it means I can use my iPad and not have to lug a laptop on trips. I've made a Trips Menu to simplify matters.

In bookier news, there's another Florence-set novel by Marco Vichi in the series featuring Inspector Bordelli out this week, and the last one only came out in January! It's called Death in Sardinia and I spotted it in Hatchard's today, although Amazon UK (and the publishers) maintain that it's not out until October. Mysterious. But there's a review copy coming, and so a review too, of course.

An archive of Italian government newsreels has just gone up on YouTube. A search for Venice threw up very few, all about Venice Beach, California. Kicking myself I then put in Venezia and there's loads - most of them down to Mussolini's gaff's name. They are not very comprehensively described, so it's worth a poke around. Lots of footage of starlets in bikinis on the Lido during the film festival and Venice in the snow seems to have been an eternally popular subject. But there's a film of Bogart and Bacall in Venice, and also this wonderful old film of the Ospedale al Mare on the Lido in its heyday.


A new collection of short stories called Venice Noir should be slipping through the old letterbox soon. Now for me noir means a sassy broad and some poor libido-lead sap that she embroils easily in some twisty murder plot, which weakness leads him to deep regret and/or death by the end of the film.  I'm guessing a looser definition applies in Venice Noir. We'll see. I've also lashed out a princely £1.98 on a Kindle ebook called Faces in the Water by Tonya Macalino which promises post-apocalyptic action in the flooded ruins of Venice. Recent quakes and the tornado in Venice make this plot seem somewhat less far-fetched.

For those who don't follow this site's facebook page, I just have to pass on this amazing news. It seems that on Thursday "the Commissioner for Public Works Alessandro Maggioni announced that the city will take action to remove graffiti from the Rialto Bridge, and 7 other locations." Well that's big of him! Is that not his job?! I always assumed that Venice's considerable graffiti problem was because someone wasn't doing their job. But can it be that actually it was, until now, no-one's job? Maybe I'd be less dumbstruck by this if I hadn't just spent a week in Vienna - possibly the cleanest and most graffiti-free city it's ever been my pleasure to want to live in. And which once had a Venice theme-park, in the Prater amusement park (see postcard above right).

Having a bit of a Vivaldi thing. Reading Vivaldi's Muse, rediscovering the cello concertos and sonatas thanks to fine performances on CDs by Roel Dieltiens, and having a poke around to see if any of the planned films got made. Current info on the films is now incorporated into my Vivaldi page. Also getting odd juicy facts for my churches site from a guide book to Venice written in the 1910s it's interesting to note that despite having entries for the church of the Pieta and San Giovanni in Bragora it does not mention Vivaldi at all.
Been back from Vienna a couple of days. The reports and photos turned out to be more flak towers and rusty cemetery lanterns than cakes and architecture; and we went to some unusual museums. We managed to avoid the Torture Museum and the Criminal Museum though, the latter good for detailed autopsy photos, evidently. Truly a most enjoyable trip, notable for my first taste of asparagus. And the poppy seed ice cream. And a wonderful Otto Wagner watch.

Christobel and Donna duly read, enjoyed and reviewed. Vivaldi's Muse and The Spirit of Venice to follow in a couple of weeks, because thoughts and reading are currently devoted to Vienna, where we're off to this coming Wednesday. No trip blog this time, though, as after the furious writing-up of my trips to America and Florence I need a holiday this time! Maybe some cakes-and-architecture bulletins on the old Facebook page though.

Recently through the letterbox have been the new Christobel Kent, called The Dead Season, and Vivaldi's Muse by Sarah Bruce Kelly. Expect reviews soonish. The new Donna Leon expect less soon, for the aforementioned reasons. I also spotted something called The Spirit of Venice: From Marco Polo to Casanova by Paul Strathern in Hatchards yesterday, and have requested a review copy. (Which arrived on the 3rd - nice one Cape.) The book looks to define the city through the lives of some famous residents. The author wrote a well-reviewed book about the Medici that I've been meaning to read for ages, so the omens look good.

Home. To big puddles, two confused cats and a trip out for a curry. Also Churches of Venice has used up its bandwidth a week before the end of the month, again. Apologies - I'm looking into a solution, soon.

Jeff in Florence

It's not one of the cities I 'do' on this website, but there's no challenging New York's status as the city that needs to be appreciated if you're going to understand the nature and evolution of the city. Following my recent visit I've become a bit immersed, I must admit. I've been watching the Ken Burns TV documentary series, which is exhaustive to say the list, being made up of seven two-hour episodes and a later three-hour updating. Also a conveniently-timed collection of writings about New York from those lovely city-pick people is providing characteristically juicy pointers in all sorts of fruitful literary directions.


Fans will know that this year's new Brunetti novel came out last week. Fans of this site will know that Donna Leon's publishers (may their name be mud) never send me review copies. So, I'll read and review it eventually, but I'm relying on my local library. There's also the second in the alterno-Venice Assassini series by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Outcast Blade, out early May. I have higher hopes of a review copy of this one.

News in the old inbox this morning of another Titian exhibition at the National Gallery based around The Flight into Egypt, a newly-restored painting loaned from the Hermitage. So off I hie me. The painting itself is an early work and worth a look, but it's not going to trouble my Top Ten Titians list. The landscape is fine but the figures look added on and flat. More of a draw are the works added for context and illustration which form a fine build up. Most are from the National's collection, but there are some useful added portraits from country houses. For me the highlight was a rather wonderful small Giorgione Madonna and Child (see right), also loaned from the Hermitage, and I'll be slipping back when I can to soak it in some more. One of his best indeed, and so a contrast to the 'Giorgione' that usually lives in the NG basement, and which has been dusted off and brought upstairs. The exhibition goes on until the 19th August, when the Titian will move on to the Accademia in Venice for a while.

After a couple of weeks I'm loving my new iPad. For reading comics, watching TV progs, playing (usually) silly games and checking email it's great. And surfing by tapping on links onscreen is nifty too. As an ebook I still prefer my Kindle - the iPad screen is a joy to read on but with all the reading apps on the iPad the smaller Kindle is a better and simpler proposition. The iPad is good for pdfs though. But, and here's what I'm leading up too, if you're a Florence lover and have an iPad there's a wonderful app. It's called Firenze and it covers all the usual topics -  the renaissance, Leonardo, the Medici, Galileo...you know the stuff. It also covers WWII and the flood, but very briefly. But it lets you swivel buildings in 3D, hold the screen up and look around like you're, in one case, up on top of Giotto's tower, and even gets you into paintings. Being inside one of the Piero Ideal City paintings (which used to be this site's banner image way back) and exploring the 3D space in Masaccio's Trinity is well cool.

Back from my American trip and hoping for a return to some clarity of head and regularity of sleep patterns soon. Loved all the art and the food and the experience. Next trip up - familiarity and Florence in April.

I was in Boston last week, but now I'm in New York.
Read more about it on the
Jeff in Boston & New York page.

March, already! And with it comes...my Birthday! That's next week, and then the week after that I'm off to the States for a week of art galleries, in Boston and New York. Not sure if I'll be doing a trip blog, but I'll at least be e-nattering on the old facebook page.



I have a thing about ruins, I admit it - I have a page devoted to buildings ruined, abandoned and lost and like nothing better that to wander around a delapidated Venetian hospital. I think it goes with the Venice thing. So imagine my joy at reading this article this morning - it mentions a book (of words rather than photos) that I was not aware of, called Pleasure of Ruins by Rose Macaulay and an exhibition of photos of Detroit (currently the centre of the world for ruinophiles) which has got to appeal, even if I do already have the book that the exhibition's photos are taken from.

Just a quick bulletin to say...not much...is going on. Some newly-translated Brunetti TV episodes trickling over from the US and some old books and older films being reviewed. Still, there are buds showing and soon it'll be Spring, with its trips and gelati. Oh, if you were waiting on Amazon.com to buy my spiffy Imagining Venice book mentioned below it's here! Or here if you're in the UK.

Just back from a few days in Ramsgate - a strange place. The run-down, unloved and sad look of many UK seaside resorts, especially in rainy January. But with added benefit claimants, much evidence of recent white flight, a winning mix of architectural (seaside) styles, a big ugly ferry terminal and container dock, and a gorgeous pseudo-medieval pile (The Grange, built by Pugin) recently restored for us to stay in. (An angel from a doorway is over on the right.) All of which has very little to do with Venice, London, or Florence, but needed to be said nonetheless!

I'm not sure why, but I seem to have posted quite a few photos of odd things cluttering up the South Bank Centre here over the years. These have mostly been connected to exhibitions in the Hayward Gallery, but the photo below right shows a new temporary cabin. Installed for 2012 as an Olympics tie-in, you can hire it for £120 a night, or you could have done if you'd got in before it became all booked up. It needs to have a poncey name, of course, so it's been called A Room for London.  There's a lot of talk of Conrad, too, and hearts of darkness, and the spirey bit isn't just a spirey bit, it's an homage to Hawksmoor's London church towers. Sigh. But did you know that the Hayward's first exhibition was devoted to frescoes from Florence? It capitalised on the work done to the frescoes that had been damaged during the 1966 flood and the subsequent discoveries. And even I can remember going to the Hayward to see proper old art, and not just the modern tosh of recent years.

Hot news for fans of the German TV adaptations of Donna Leon's Brunetti novels - MHz Networks in the US will be showing the next seven subtitled episodes on their Sunday Night International Mystery program starting next week. These follow on from the eight already shown and released last year on DVD. Episodes 10 and 11 I've already reviewed on my Brunetti TV page and I have hopes of catching the others. This year's new Brunetti novel (out in April of course) is called Beastly Things, which sounds more like a P.G. Wodehouse novel  to me.

Followers of the fortunes of the ruined Ospedale al Mare on the Lido in Venice might like to know that the group protesting the dereliction (of the theatre especially) now have a website teatromarinoni.org to visit and an arty video to watch (see right). They're also planning an exhibition and a book, and want to use some of my photos in both.

Happy New Years all round!
On the immediate horizon, reviews wise, is The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich and a new one from Marco Vichi (who provided us with one of our favourite Florence reads last year) called Death and the Olive Grove. Later in January I'm starting a course in appreciating early Italian frescoes and am staying in Pugin's house in Ramsgate. Also I've just been asked to contribute to a book about Venice film locations. So no January blues for me I'm thinking! Also...

If you've ever though that it'd be nice to have the Venetian fiction, film and TV content of this site all collected in one handy paperback book I have great news for you. Click here or on the cover on the right to purchase this eminently portable and lovable item, for yourself and your friends.

News from Yvonne, a site friend who's in Venice now - filming has finally begun on Emma Thompson's film about Effie Ruskin. On Yvonne's blog we also learn, or I do, that those stone shelf things in corners to prevent men pissing are called pissotte. She has photos of them in various styles too! And Santa Clause gondoliers!

As 2011 draws to a close we can be sure that 2012 will not be so full of news and turmoil, I think, because 2011 has used up so much that there's hardly any left. My festive farewell to 2011 can be read on the facebook page and my Top 10 books and CDs of the year can be found on the News page. The next couple of weeks should see me reading and reviewing the novel mentioned below. Also the proof copy of my new (self-published) book of the Venice pages on this site, entitled Imaginary Venice, is on its way to be checked. So all being well that should become available in January. And it's so reasonably priced. Onward!

My Books of 2011
Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games trilogy
Marco Vichi Death in August
Laura Brylawski-Miller  The Medusa's Smile
Carol Birch  Jamrach's Menagerie
Neal Stephenson Reamde
Erin Morgenstern The Night Circus
Haruki Murakami  1Q84
Ian R. MacLeod Wake up and Dream
Edmund de Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes
Lucretia Grindle The Lost Daughter

I was firmly gripped by The Hunger Games books over Christmas 2010, so they didn't quite make last year's list. There's a film out in 2012. Not a good year for fiction set in Venice but The Medusa's Smile would've shone in any year. Florence did better this year, with Death in August and The Lost Daughter - both crime novels. The rest mostly have a bit of magic about them.

My CDs of 2011
Figurines Figurines
Phoenix Foundation Buffalo
Low C'mon
Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
My Morning Jacket Circuital
Death Cab for Cutie Codes and Keys
Robot Heart The Robot Heart
Lanterns on the Lake Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
Ghosts I've Met From a Spark
 Guðrið Hansdóttir Beyond the Grey

American indie band domination, as usual, but with a female singer from Reykjavík. Lots of good stuff released too in the nebulous category sometimes called Home listening, new classical and/or electro-acoustic, veering into new folk. But they tend to blur into one, admittedly rather lovely, erm, blur. Ludovico Einaudi was the more mainstream fave of the year, roughly in this sphere, but Richard Skelton, Plinth, Vieo Abiungo, Field Rotation and Dakota Suite all did us proud too.
It's been a damn lean year for good new novels set in Venice, so let's look forward to Crossing the Bridge of Sighs by Susan Ashley Michael. I'm promised a review copy and so will let you know. But I'm guessing my review won't appear until early January, so 2011 will remain a lean year regardless. And whatever did happen to The Black King, the hyped first novel by Francesco da Mosto, promised for various put-back dates in 2011, but now utterly gone from Amazon? All we seem to have is the cover and the synopsis, which hints at a somewhat overloaded plot involving Elizabethan London's favourite alchemist, Doctor Dee, and much sub-Da Vinci Code 'mystery'.

If you know (and love) the Victoria and Albert Museum you'll know (and love) how easy it is to get lost and discover odd and wonderful things. I went today to go see an exhibition called Venetian Visions: the art of Canaletto, Tiepolo, Carlevarijs and their contemporaries 1700 – 1800. The title is bigger than the exhibition, but it had some nice stuff - sketches by Tiepolo I liked (and I'm not a big preparatory sketch fan), some Guardi cappricios (like the one on the right), Carlivarijs topographical etchings ... all the usuals. Whilst getting lost finding the exhibition I found myself admiring decorative ironwork and then a full-sized external wooden spiral staircase and the huge wooden façade from a medieval house in London. On my way from the Venetian stuff to find ceramics I found an architecture gallery, with models and plans and drawings in drawers, and a photography gallery with greatest hits by Atget, Ansel Adams, Roger Fenton, etc. I decided that the major cause of room-finding confusion is the fact that the staircases don't all go to all floors, in fact very few do, and they're mostly closed due to building work.


The Guildhall Art Gallery is not one of the best publicised, or most visited, galleries in London, and I suppose that those two facts are probably not unconnected. I went there today for an Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition, an exhibition that I'd only found out about reading the Burlington Magazine in the London Library last week. (My life!) Anyway, I experienced no little difficulty gaining entrance as the large Guildhall courtyard had much fencing and little and bad signage. After walking around and recovering my tracks I gave up and asked at the library reception, and was shown the way in, which involved ignoring a No Entry sign. And the reason for all this exclusion? The anti-capitalist protesters outside St Paul's had evidently tried to gain access last week. The exhibition itself was pretty without really challenging any preconceptions.

Today I went to the Real Venice photography exhibition at Somerset House. I'm glad I went but wish I'd gone to it in Venice because, judging by a quick flip through the catalogue, it was a  much bigger exhibition there - most of the photographers seem to have had twice as many works on show when the exhibition was at San Giorgio Maggiore. Which would've meant more photos to ogle by my exhibition faves Antonio Girbés and Matthias Schaller. The former's kaleidoscopic architectural fantasias and the latter's dark slices of shimmering palazzo interiors both made it worthwhile to go see the actual photographs. Their sweep and shimmer, respectively, have to be seen full size and well printed. Discovering these two made it well worth the visit for me.

New life, new challenges. Yesterday I was only on the radio - live!

                 Listen here

26th Oct Part One has me talking about this website from about 13 mins in. I stick around into Part Two adding 'helpful' contributions.

Having the new Facebook page mentioned above is leading to some information confusion for me between what I'm putting up here, there and on my own Facebook page. It's probably to be classed as personal news but ... I'm now happily voluntarily redundant! As of last Thursday I'm no longer in paid employment and will therefore be  spending more time with my sites and the cats. I'll also be trying to earn a few bob with freelance writing. Life changing! Watch these spaces.

Updated my Ospedale al Mare page with photos from this year's trip, like the one on the right.

The 'do' to launch Robin's book mentioned below went well and was, we were told, very entertaining and enlightening. A last-minute surprise was provided by one of the audience identifying himself as Lido born and bred, and that he'd been born in the Lido Ospedale much written about and photographed in ruins in these parts.  There's a photo to the right, of some somewhat serious preparation going on, taken by site fan Val.


It's tomorrow, that book event at which I will be interviewing Robin Saikia live at the Italian Cultural Institute about his book about The Venice Lido. Click here for details and to book free tickets.

Home again, and adding lots of photos and info over on my churches site. Immediately upcoming reviews here include a crime novel set in Florence called The Lost Daughter by Lucretia Grindle and an illustrated survey of Venice's many woes called Veniceland Atlantis: The Bleak Future of the World's Favourite City.


It's been Open House weekend here in London. Yesterday we visited churches in the City - click here for some nice pics. Today we got shown around Tooting's most famous building, an architectural gem, and the only Grade 1 listed cinema in the county. It's special and it's here. We also got handed leaflets for The London Cinema Museum, which was news to us. Will investigate.

I know that some people like the summer, but for me it's the autumn. The kids are back in school, the trees are going nice colours, and after all the festivals that I don't go to dominating the arts coverage, there are now articles about all the books and music and exhibitions coming soon. The books are dominated by the new Haruki Murakami which I'm SO looking forward to, but there are another several mighty tempting new reads this month alone (The Submission by Amy Waldman, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Reamde by Neal Stephenson). Exhibitions include Leonardo at the National Gallery, Vermeer at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge and Fra Angelico in Paris. And two weeks from today - Jeff inVenice!

They've arrived - the Brunetti DVDs mentioned below - and so I've been able to muchly improve the quality of the screen grabs, and will be watching and reviewing the 'new' episodes. I've also now given the series its own page.

Following the release in May in the US of official DVDs of four subtitled episodes of the German adaptations of Donna Leon's Brunetti novels, those of you paying attention will have noted silence on the subject from me since. Well, this is a reflection of the silence from the company releasing them, to my polite request for review copies. But fear not, the good news is that I've got a helpful American agent who's known only, and mysteriously, as Richard from LA, to buy them for me and send them on. The company don't ship abroad, you see, although Amazon resellers do, although they only seem to have the first four on offer at the moment. Because, in further good news, four more episodes have just been released, and I'm getting all eight, so there'll be more episodes to review.

Went to the Treasures of Heaven exhibition of saint-worship and reliquaries at the British Museum today. (Details here) It was enlightening on a subject rarely dealt with in any depth, and even more rarely the subject of an exhibition.  For Venetophiles there was a lot about Venice's position between the West and the East making it the city through which most of the relics passed, and sometimes stayed. Also fans of Carpaccio's St Ursula cycle will be impressed to see a reliquary made to house the remains of one of the 11,000 virgins. It's the bust on the poster. The audioguide was essential too, using the screen to illustrate and deepen. Shame about getting Derek Jacobi to read it, though - the ac-tor-ly e-nun-ci-a-tion was very distracting, especially when they added churchy echo for the Bible readings. Hard to reconcile the difference between the 'real' and the fake, though, because, pardon my atheism, none of it's real. No relics of Christ's body because he was resurrected and taken to heaven? Oh, of course! And just how did they think they'd come by the Virgin's breast milk? Do virgin mothers even lactate?

This site now has its own Facebook page...
Friends of Fictional Cities and the Churches of Venice
Click on the link above and Like the page for regular news updates. And you can post your comments too!

And my new mate Robin is also selling signed copies of his Lido book online and giving 3 Euros from every sale to the Dingo cattery on the Lido. Click here to buy and donate.

What are you doing in October? Yes I know it's ages yet but on the 10th I'll be 'in conversation' with Robin Saikia at the Italian Cultural Institute, helping to launch his book The Venice Lido. More details on the ICI's website. It's free, but you need to book. I expect an encouraging turnout from the Fictional Cities crowd.

The awaited TV adaptation of Sarah Waters' The Night Watch is on BBC 2 tomorrow night. This is all very fast, and short. I was expecting a few Sunday evening episodes in the Autumn, but it's all over in one 90-minute film on a Summer Tuesday night, which doesn't seem right.

In other London-related news: Lee Jackson, the man behind the most excellent Victorian London website and the author of some novels we really liked too, has branched out into the supplying of some juicy and odd Victoriana for your Kindle. Click here to check out his wares.

Robin Saikia, the author of a fab new book about the Venice Lido, is the latest taker of the test that is The Venice Questions. And he passes! Not least by taking the ball with regard to my somewhat sedate and political  Mayor for a day question and running with it in a way with which it has not hitherto been ran.

Watched some of  Three Men Go to Venice on TV last night, in which three grizzled old comedians travel to Venice to see and say predictable stuff and have stage-managed 'problems' and squabbles. This was the second part and they still only managed the last 15 minutes or so actually in Venice. Between them they then visited a glass blower and the fish market, learned to row standing up, and went out on the fire brigade boat. Following Jamie Oliver's foody visit to Venice one of them also went to the Convertite women's prison's weekly veg market, and got beaten to everything by one of the locals. Maybe this last visit will become a new Venice cliché to add to the tired old ones.

Well, Tiziano Scarpa's Stabat Mater turned out to be no small disappointment. Its sequence of small chunks of the internal monologue of an orphan girl in the Pieta, and the effect Vivaldi's appointment has on her, just plain failed to grip or move. And then I started to read Pallas and the Centaur, the middle volume of Linda Proud's Botticelli trilogy. It deals with the lives of the circle around Lorenzo de' Medici in the aftermath of the Pazzi conspiracy, and begins with... a sequence of small chunks of the internal monologue of Angelo Poliziano's sister, Maria, who knows nothing of why she's been confined to a convent and thinks herself an orphan as the book begins. And it is everything Stabat Mater isn't - full of humanity, touching detail, and piquant historical flavour.
Back from Florence, which more than earned its place as my second favourite city. We must and will be going more often. Expect more Florence content, beginning with a review of the fascinating new Secret Florence guide. And I'm even wondering about the wisdom of a new website: The Churches of Florence. Stop me!

And in Venice news: expect a review of The Venice Lido book mentioned below, and of Tiziano Scarpa's Stabat Mater, the winner of the Premio Strega, the Italian Booker, in 2009 and out in English translation at last in August.

Gone to Florence, and trip reporting here
with more photos here

Having loved the books Secret London and Secret Venice hopes are high for the very imminent Secret Florence, and also that that nice Mr Jonglez might get a copy through my letterbox before I fly to said city next week. Another letterbox hopeful is The Venice Lido by Robin Saikia. The book is a welcome addition to the hardly groaning shelf of books on the Lido. The author has a mouth-watering website too, and has agreed to submit himself to the gruelling torture that is my Venice Questions page.

And looping right back in a slightly confusing way I just watched a newish National Geographic documentary called Secrets of Florence. Call me a cultural snob if you like but it just made me appreciate much more the quality of BBC documentaries. The NG effort was all superlatives and build up, with so little analysis and depth, it was like an hour of intellectual foreplay and no real...satisfaction. All the usual topics where covered: Leonardo and Michelangelo cutting up cadavers, the Medici, Brunelleschi's dome, and Vasari's corridor. Hardly what I'd call secrets, especially if you'd ever watched any of the other documentaries about Florence.

Been back from Vienna a week, and next week it's Florence. Isn't life hard? Into town today to see the Jan Gossaert exhibition at the National Gallery before it finishes next week. On the way to the tube home I nip into Hatchards to see if they have any useful new guides to Florence and who do I bump into but...Donna Leon! When I say bump into I mean she was sitting at a desk signing some books before the hoards arrived, attended by her 'people'. Plucking up nerve I approached and managed to express my admiration whilst keeping embarrassment to a minimum. I mentioned this website and she looked suitably vague, but at least she didn't say 'Oh, so you're that bastard!'  That's it really, but I can report a fine firm handshake.

I've had no reply from the company producing the new Brunetti DVDs I mentioned earlier in the month, so it's not looking like I'll be getting review discs, but other avenues exist. And more Donna... there are four videos on YouTube of a lengthy interview in the Toronto Public Library. The fourth part (click here) starts with a good cat story and her opinion of the German TV adaptations. I've not watched all of them yet, but she comes across as one cool (and entertaining) cookie, no question.

...but I can't resist a bit of reporting, and some photos. And, well, Vienna is not disappointing at all. The buildings are almost all worth admiring -
if a little overpopulated with statues, caryatids, eagles, putti, etc - the cakes, ice cream and chocolate are most superior, and the Kunsthistorische Museum has the best selection of Venetian art outside Venice, I think. This is down to the many fine works by Titian and Veronese and the rest, but mostly because of a small room devoted to Giorgione which has three of his best, and a few of dubious attribution, but all fine and worth a look, if only to say 'Giorgione? That one? You're having me on!' Also, not being able to cross the road until the green man appears is a small price to pay for some of the cleanest, dog-crap-free, and graffiti-less streets one could wish for. An excellent urban environment all around.
See some more Vienna photos here.

Gone to Vienna - back in a week.
I'm not going to do a trip report this time as Vienna's not one of my site cities. And I'm keen to see if I have the strength to stay in a big and fascinating city for a week and NOT write about it. Fingers crossed.
(It's harder to type like that.)

Donna Leon fans, especially those of you who've had their appetites whetted by my reviews here, will be pleased to learn that on the 17th of May MHz networks are to release the first four subtitled episodes of the German TV adaptations of the Brunetti novels on two DVDs. The books that these are taken from being A Venetian Reckoning (aka Death and Judgment), The Anonymous Venetian, Fatal Remedies, and A Noble Radiance. Click here for details, and to buy them.

I've been buying different flavours of these pastiglie for years
on Venice trips, but who knew they'd been translated?


St Botolph Without Aldgate. But with an odd art installation.
The black strip has silver scuffed down it,
caused by dragging a deer along it, the caption said.

The doorway on the right is where Harry Lime emerges from the
shadows with the cat around his feet.



It has become tradition, and is a phenomenon first noticed by my mum, that whenever I get a new camera the first photos must always include at least one of St Paul's Cathedral. So having just treated myself to a Canon EOS 600D DSLR (and the equally expensive EFS 15-85 lens, photography fans) it was not surprising that a weekend trip to Borough Market should also take in the roof terrace of the new development just east of St Paul's called One New Change.  I can report that it's a great new viewpoint up there, and spacious too. Photographic evidence can be found above and to the right.

And the post this morning contained my first review novel from a publisher in ages - The Good Thief's Guide to Venice by Chris Ewan. Expect a review soon.

I gave in and bought the new Donna Leon, with folding money! Well actually with a book token left over from xmas - thanks to C & M!  In fact it wasn't so much a book token as a bookshop's gift voucher, in fact part of a voucher, and the voucher is now in the form a credit card jobbie 'charged' with cash, but, well, you know ... at least it was a real book made out of paper.

More good news! You know those nasty big advert hoardings that have been blighting buildings on the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco and the Doge's Palace for far too long? Well, their days are numbered. The new minister of culture, Giancarlo Galan (the right-wing governor of the Veneto region from 1995 to 2010 and recently minister of agriculture), has told La Nuova Venezia newspaper that the mega-ads must go. Tourists should not have to see such a spectacle, and the advertisers themselves must be finding the ads are bad publicity, he said, the money to pay for the restoration that the ads were financing will have to found in other ways.

The plight of the city of Detroit throws up oodles of topics, pertinent and fragrant, to do with the future of cities and the way that cities being formed by the motorcar become malfunctioning entities, maybe even doomed to wither and die. And so on. I've been indulging a passion for 'ruin porn' lately and the fruits are reviews on my Abandoned Buildings page. A little off-topic so I've not included them as 'updates'.

Decidedly on-topic is the new Donna Leon, Drawing Conclusions, which is out soon. The press office at Heinemann seem, as ever, reluctant to send me a review copy so here's hoping that my reservation at the library will be satisfied swiftly.

More TV and film news. It seems that the ratings for the  Zen series, based on Michael Dibdin's novels, were not good enough for the BBC to consider another series, although the company that made them may take the series elsewhere. This presumably makes the possibility of a series based on Donna Leon's Brunetti novels an even more distant prospect. But next month does see the start of an adaptation of Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White , a novel which we loved. And sometime soonish there's the BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters' The Night Watch.

Then there's a new addition to the list of short films set in Renaissance Florence, and one made in Italy even. It's called Amici Miei Come Tutto Ebbe Inizio, which translates  My friends, how it all started, and it seems its a sort-of prequel to Amici Miei, a well-loved (but not by me) film from the 70s about old geezers bemoaning their lost youth with the help of some young women. This new one  looks from the trailer to be something which might in the UK get called Carry On Lorenzo.

It is a truth universally unquestioned that there are too many leviathan cruise ships bringing far too many day trippers in Venice and that the decline in the numbers of real residents is worrying. That there were plans afoot to expand the Tronchetto's capacity for cruise ships, at the expense of the dock area for the fish market, which would have lead to the loss of the famous and thriving fish market by the Rialto, is incomprehensible. But there were plans, which have thankfully just been thwarted by local pressure, as reported in the London Observer today.

On a lighter and bookier note - news reaches us that there's to be a film of Venice-fic fan-fave Miss Garnet's Angel, and that Salley Vickers herself is currently working on the script.

After some dithering and redundancy-related uncertainty, I've booked my Venice trip for this year, in late September as usual. I needed somewhere new, accommodation-wise, and after a few failures I'm going to be staying in a hotel I've stayed in before - the Ca' Pozzo. For a few years now I've been centred mostly around the Santo Stefano area, so being up in Cannaregio again will make for much freshness methinks. And today is my Birthday! And the daffs are coming out. (see below).



When in Venice, have you ever thought how great it would be if the sound of gondoliers singing was available on CD for you to enjoy at home? Me neither. But if you know someone that way inclined they might be excited to know that such a CD is released on March. There's three of them, they are unconfusingly called The Gondoliers, and individually they're called Gary, Kevin and Derek*. Staying with music, the film of the life of famed Venetian courtesan/poet Veronica Franco, Dangerous Beauty, has now been made into a musical. (Link now dead, but it did happen, honest.)

*No they're not.

Site friends who get my e-mail bulletins will know that one of the less grim outcomes of the current UK government's demented cuts agenda was going to be my volunteering for redundancy to 'spend more time with my websites' as they say. This is going to happen, but instead of at the end of March, as originally planned, I am now set to become a non-librarian sometime around the end of August.

On a less personal note...an otherwise tedious-looking year for new fiction set in Venice has just sparked into life: Jon Courtenay Grimwood (a science fiction author we like) has a new novel out called The Fallen Blade. It's set in Venice in 1407 and promises much fantasticalness. And vampires. Can't wait.

In the immortal words of Prof Farnsworth: 'Good news everyone!'  That stupid statue of the naked boy holding the dangling frog at the end of the Dogana is going to be taken away! And the (much nicer) lamppost it displaced is to be replaced. There's a Facebook page you can join, which has had no little effect on this decision, it is said, called Lampione di Punta della Dogana: NOI lo vorremmo indietro!!!

Also after a bit of a hiatus my Venice Questions page has a new victim - Miranda Miller who wrote of one my fave reads of last year. The novel's set in London, but the author has Venice cred in spades.

Don't Look Now is a film which rides forever high in the canon of favourite films set in Venice and, along with Summertime, also obsesses the location spotters mightily. So I'm guessing a fair few of you will be mighty interested in an article in today's Guardian which has many interesting things to say and reveals that "going to Venice" was Daphne Du Maurier's private code for having a lesbian sexual adventure!

Ratking, the last of the three BBC films of Michael Dibdin's Zen novels is broadcast this Sunday and so far they've been damn entertaining. The trailers frantically stressed the sex and violence, but the episodes themselves have been much calmer. Last Sunday's was Cabal, and there were some small and large liberties taken with the original, most obviously the famous fall from the dome of St Peter's became a fall from a bridge, presumably because permission to film in St Peter's was not forthcoming.

On a related topic: there are rumours of a legitimate DVD release for the German Donna Leon adaptations with English subtitles, and soon. The first half dozen are going to include the five I've already seen and reviewed (on the page linked to above) but still... Watch this space.

It's by London Bridge Station and they're calling it
The Shard, already. Call me old fashioned but don't
nicknames come along later, and spontaneously?

We're soon going to see the end of it!

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