eason's Greetings

I'll not begin by putting my 2019 into a global context this year, as it's all been so depressing that ignoring it and taking refuge in books about art, Anglo-Saxon burial rituals and cemeteries has been the only thing to do.

Some years sparkle, and some years just shine consistently and warmly but donít exactly catch fire, Iím sure youíll agree. 2019 started well with good courses and two cunningly alphabetically-ordered trips to Sicily and Siena. The first was a long-anticipated feast of mosaic and cosmati work, but less anticipated was the, well, packs of feral dogs and piles of shit that you just don't get in the prosperous north. Siena, though, was one of those trips where you suddenly just 'get' a place and feel a connection. But it was also a place where I felt a stabbing pain pain in my calf, which lingered through May and meant that I had to cancel a guided trip to another long-anticipated destination Ė Assisi. I compensated with a swiftly-booked trip to Mantua in June, revisiting a trip I had much enjoyed in 2015, except that then Mantegna's Camera degli Sposi had still been closed, which had rankled and made a return inevitable. The downside of this trip was a stupid episode involving the Ďlossí of my credit-card wallet, the upside was that it began a sequence of fine and bright hotel rooms with excellent views. Trip-taking suffered a bit of a slump in the summer, except for (a fine sunset-facing room in) Cardiff in July. Educationally the summer slumped too, with my first failure to get onto a Courtauld summer school in many a year.

The autumn saw trip-joy begin again in earnest with a week in Ferrara and Bologna, the first with a room with a view of the Castello from my bed and the second the side of San Petronio, and the sound of some regular choral music recitals within. Lingering in Ferrara, previously only visited for single days, was a treat, and I was happy to put the finishing touches to my Bologna churches page, although the work never really finishes, thankfully. Both of these cities also saw a firming up of my fascination with Italian Monumental Cemeteries, which had been fired up in Siena too. (Iíve also been visiting some big local London cemeteries and becoming a bit obsessed with the BBC archaeology documentaries and ancient burials.) My last trip of the year was to Venice. It was my first in almost two years, and a good re-immersion, in the week before the serious flooding. I spent three hotel breakfasts in Venice just tables away from Ridley Scott, and did not speak one word to him, which showed disappointing reticence on both our parts. In more heart-warming celebrity news I am now, through a complicated connection, the proud possessor of a copy of I Am C-3PO - The Inside Story, signed For Jeff by the robot himself.

More prosaically Venice was my first trip with a sexy new camera (a Fujifilm X-T30 mirrorless) for which I now have a new very-wide-angle lens, which means that Iíve now got to revisit every church, especially the ones across narrow streets, to get even more of them in! Even more prosaically all of my sites will be moving to new hosting next year, a process begun in recent weeks, and I hope this will go so smoothly you wonít even notice.

On a related point, my site-connected email addresses seemed to get unreliably in 2019 and so I changed the link to my 'real' email address, and have since had notably more site-related communications. This may be a coincidence, but if you sent me an email in 2019 and I've not replied it's likely because I never received it.

Courses on still life paintings and illuminated manuscripts begin 2020, and trips already booked include the Jan van Eyck exhibition in Ghent in March and Florence in April; with guided trips to Parma and Modena in June and Lucca, Pistoia and Prato in September.

Anyway, 2020 - let's hope that things really can't get any worse.


My Top 11 Books of 2019
Andrea Perego The Laws of Time
Diane Setterfield Once Upon a River
Mark Haddon The Porpoise
Jeanette Winterson Frankissstein
Jo Walton Lent
Neal Stephenson Fall; or, Dodge in Hell
Giorgio Bassani The Novel of Ferrara
Robert Harris The Second Sleep
Virginie Despentes Vernon Subutex One
P.G. Wodehouse A Pelican at Blandings
after 2018's year of Jeeves and Wooster, in 2019 I read
 the Blandings books, and this was one of the best.

and the audiobook of
George Saunders Tenth of December

My Top 11 CDs of 2019

La Luz Floating Features
Highasakite Uranium Heart
Aldous Harding Designer
Keren Ann Bleue (Deluxe)
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
Oh Land Family Tree
Underworld DRIFT Series 1
Maria Taylor Maria Taylor
Burial Tunes 2011 to 2019
Various German Lute Music
A set of 9 CDs of already-favourite music by favourite players,
 but still one for the desert island.
Tiburtina Ensemble Cor Europae - Christmas in Mediaeval Prague

Reviews November & December 2019
Hisham Matar A Month in Siena Siena
Susanna Clarke Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Venice
Hallie Rubenhold The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women
Killed by Jack the Ripper
The Books That Made Me Self indulgence
Some 2019 Tintoretto books

News of next year's fruitful Spring rush of Venice novels begins with Donna Leon's new Brunetti coming out on the 5th of March (in time for my birthday again) called Trace Elements, and then in April there's Philip Gwynne Jones's new Nathan Sutherland novel Venetian Gothic.


for the first time in ages

In a bookshop in Bologna last week I spotted a novel called Medici ~ Ascendancy by Matteo Strukul, the first in a trilogy. My first thought was: do we really need another book about the Medici, let alone three? I looked up the author, he's Italian and has an unusual background in crime fiction, comics and computer games, so one might expect something fresh, but his other novels have dealt with Michelangelo and Casanova. What next? Vivaldi and the Pietŗ girls? Pshaw!

I'm just back from

Ferrara and Bologna
where I went for the working on Bologna's churches, two cemeteries and some end-of-season gelato. Mission accomplished! It's good to take Autumn trips and so return from the warmth of Italy to the chill of the English autumn, but the contrast this time, between short-sleeves in the evening and air-conditioning in my hotel room and putting the central heating on and searching out the winter coat was too drastic!

Those of you paying attention may have noticed that, despite announcements to the contrary, I was not in Venice last week. But fear not - I will be there in the first week in November. The churches specially open for Biennale shows will still be open and From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections, the exhibition in the Palazzo Ducale which opened last Thursday, the day I was due to come home, will still be on. So all is good.

Reviews June, July & August 2019
Tinney Sue Heath Lady of the Seven Suns: a novel of the woman
Saint Francis called Brother
Related works
Jo Walton Lent Florence

Tinney Sue Heath's A Thing Done
was a novel set in Florence that I liked lots a few years back. So an offer of her new one was greeted with joy. It's called Lady of the Seven Suns and deals with the life of Francis of Assisi from the viewpoint of a rich Roman patrician woman who becomes an acolyte and a sturdy supporter. I'm half way through and finding it a gentle but moving read, from a perspective mixing faith with pragmatism. It's out on September 1st and I hope to get my review up next week.

Also Michelle Lovric, a friend of this site in the early days, has a new Venice-set novel for children just out called The Wishing Bones. The plot revolves around an orphan, Casanova and the bones of Saint Lucy, it seems, and promises the return of the author's lovably stroppy mermaids.


Mantua & Ferrara

Reviews April
& May 2019
Allison Levy House of Secrets
Jess Kidd Things in Jars London

It seems that guidebooks are waning in popularity, what with the internet and all. It's still gratifying to get good head-swelling plugs in them, though, like the new edition of the Rough Guide to Venice and the Veneto, from which the image on the right was snatched.

In less-good news, the healing hopes of my last posting turned out to be misplaced, and a return of sharp pain meant that I had to cancel the Umbrian hill towns trip at the last minute, which did not make me happy! A swiftly-booked trip to Mantua, on a revisit of a trip I much enjoyed in 2005 should hopefully see me getting into Mantegna's marvellous (I'm told!) Camera degli Sposi this time. Trips to Cardiff, with Gloucester Cathedral, and Venice are disappointment-soothing prospects for July and September too.

It's been weeks since I returned from the Siena trip below, and only now can I report the healing of the pulled muscle I came home with. I can finally go places without limping back! And walk for pleasure, rather than just supermarket supplies. (Thank you Boots support bandage.) Which is just as well as I have a new medieval course at the V&A starting tomorrow, and a guided trip booked to Umbrian hill towns next week. Those damn hills! But I sure got plenty of church-website work done, and lots of reading. As a fiction fan I've always had a novel on the go, since my teens, but recently the habit of a non-fiction book too has become established. Currently, though, I'm reading about the Habsburgs, the history of the Bible and the Palazzo Rucellai  - all three non-fiction! It's not natural. On the baked-goods front I ate the last slice of simnel cake yesterday and today the last of the Colomba di Pasqua, so I feel that this Bank Holiday weekend marks the divide between Siena/Easter and my striding, without pain, with hope in my heart, into summer. Shame the central heating's still on though.


Reviews February & March 2019
Donna Leon Unto Us a Son is Given Venice
Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Masquerade
Philip Kazan The Phoenix of Florence

If my many mentions of House of Secrets - The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo by Allison Levy whetted your appetite and you're wondering why no word...I'm glad to report that a copy is finally on its way, after much correspondence. Even better is the news that following one brief email a copy of The Venetian Masquerade by Philip Gwynne Jones fell onto my doormat this morning (see flyleaf snapshot right). Expect a review before the end of next week, as I have just started reading, and been immediately smitten by Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield, which I heartily recommend already.


In other review (copy) news...House of Secrets (see 4.2.2019 below) is proving hard to get, but the author herself is now onto it. I've requested the new one by Philip Kazan, called The Phoenix of Florence, from his publisher and I'm quietly confident that The Venetian Masquerade by Philip Gwynne Jones will be through the old letterbox comfortably before it's 4th of April publication date. The spring rush - maybe I should save some up for the summer lull!

Wonders never cease, as I'm sure you'll agree. Old fans will remember how regularly I whinge about the publisher Heinemann's resistance to sending me review copies of the Brunetti novels of Donna Leon. The number I've managed to wangle out of them these past 20-odd years is less than the fingers of one hand, of a Simpsons character! But fatalism is not in my nature and so I asked again this week, and this morning a fresh hardback of Unto Us a Son is Given dropped through my letterbox. Amazeballs! Expect a review next week.

After a fair amount of faff a trip has been booked to fill a tempting gap in my schedule as course terms finish a fair few weeks before Easter this year. First it was going to be Milan, to start a new page on Churches of Venice maybe. This plan was discouraged by discovering that in the week I wanted my hotel of choice was charging Ä900 a night, with the weeks either side averaging around Ä200, including the Easter weekend. I still haven't figured out why. So to prevent further mind bogglement I've decided on a week in Siena, to quietly add data and depth to the relatively new Siena pages on The Churches of Florence. But before then, I'm off in early March for my first-ever time in Sicily. Sicily then Siena - them old librarianly alphabetical-ordering instincts are still strong. Maybe I'll pop down to Sidcup in between.

On the Florence front there's some subtle media fuss about House of Secrets - The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo by Allison Levy. It's about Alberti's admirable and handsome Palazzo Rucellai, its history and later role as lodgings for the author. A review copy has been requested.

Reviews January 2019
The Aspern Papers Venice films
Andrea Perego The Laws of Time Venice

This morning's surprise was a new film of The Aspern Papers, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (see right). IRL VR is JR's mum, of course, and here VR plays JR's aunt. Also JRM was married to JR, when he was Henry VIII and she was Catherine Parr. Oh FGS!

Buona Epifania! The weekend papersí book pages have had their previews of 2019, telling us what books we might look forward to. The only Venice-mentioning novel amongst the literary stuff is Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh. Due out in June, itís the story of Deen, a book dealer whose Ďextraordinary journey...takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way.í Hmm. Due later that month is The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate, another novel about 18th century musical orphans, but from the Incurabili this time, as the orphan here sings rather than plays the violin. The authorís books usually have titles like Fallen and Torment and have windswept women in long frocks and lots of wild hair on the covers.

In April we can expect The Venetian Masquerade by site-fave Philip Gwynne Jones, a far brighter prospect. He also reissues To Venice with Love, his moving-to-Venice memoir, on the 7th of March, the day after my birthday. More of a shocker is the new Brunetti from Donna Leon, Unto Us a Son is Given, coming out not in April, as they always do, but on the 5th of March, the day before my birthday! But out first is The Laws of Time by Andrea Perego, which combines an 18th century setting with a murder, unfolds in a single day (not my birthday) and features Rosalba Carriera. Could be juicy, it's out tomorrow.

The pickings for Florence-fiction fans are even slimmer, so far. Aside from the new one by Philip Kazan, called The Phoenix of Florence, in February, late May sees Lent by fantasy author Jo Walton, which seems to be a fantastic take on the life of Savonarola.



Spot the location!


Some years seem full of fresh developments and some seem to be more characterised by consolidation. (This wise observation is in no way to be related to the ongoing global tragedies of Brexit and Trump, of course, which just fester and get more farcical with each passing year.) Website-wise Siena and Bologna, my two newest pages, got solidly improved after visits in 2018. No new pages were begun, but fruitful visits to Milan and Arezzo made both of these cities possibilities. Other trips this year took in Lincoln, Leeds, York, Florence and Nancy.

No visit to Venice for me this year despite the lure of the Tintoretto exhibitions, but a trip is planned for 2019, to take in the Biennale and a tie-in exhibition devoted to the demolished church of San Geminiano, involving its links with Dutch painters and a Tintoretto once owned by David Bowie.

There was increased contact with academic admirers this year, which is always heartening, and I discovered that The Churches of Venice had been cited and linked to in a reference on the Tate Gallery's website, and on another page there my site is even cited to contradict the previous misidentification of a doorway! Much useful Venetian information and updates (and photos) came from a fair few of you this year. (You know who you are!) Which was all good.

As you may know us retired people need structure, but 2018 developed oddly. April was dominated by a great rush of Venice novels, but my usual clustering of Spring trips didnít happen, although I did go away more in the Summer. Courses and summer schools, taking in close encounters with illuminated manuscripts, Byzantiumís influence on Italian art, and the Dutch Golden Age kept me well stimulated. And then in the Autumn there was a sudden blizzard of new novels by favourite authors, none of whom are exactly prolific and none of which was less than wonderful. They were The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, Melmoth by Sarah Perry and Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller. The last one was verily the best book Iíd read in many a year.

In prospect for 2019 are courses on Paradise, Purgatory and Hell, The Courts of Renaissance Italy, and divers Medieval matters. Anticipation of a mosaics course propelled me, at last, to book Sicily in March. Also planned are guided trips to the hilltowns of Umbria (Assisi at last!) and Medieval Shropshire.

I hope that you have plenty to look forward to too.


Spookily featuring a coincidental continuation of the October focus on works by Mantegna and Bellini. Also sadness, guidebooks, a fruity old novel, and a rather fine film.

I had my first visit to the Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery this morning, and it's a firm recommendation: intelligent arrangement, impressive and well-chosen loans, good audioguide and not too crowded. Highlights include the Crucifixion panel from the San Zeno altarpiece in Verona, which has still not been returned after Napoleon swiped it, which means it's much easier to see up close and appreciate than the altarpiece is itself. And Mantegna sure has a way with classical architecture, and rabbits. I came away more of a Mantegna fan than before, but Bellini is still my man. How they interacted is the fascination of the show, which moves to Berlin next spring, if that helps.

A bit of a Bellini book bonanza at the moment. Lives of Giovanni Bellini is a palm-size but comprehensive and plushly-illustrated compilation of roughly contemporary writing about Bellini by Vasari, Ridolfi and Boschini, with the letters between him and Isabella d'Este as a bonus. It's edited and introduced by the Getty's Davide Gasparotto and looks like an ideal stocking-filler for the Bellini fans in you life. Giovanni Bellini: The Art of Contemplation by Johannes Grave is a much more major career survey. I'll be reviewing both soon. And then there's the Mantegna and Bellini exhibition in London in prospect, in connection with which I'm going to a one-day talk and a two-afternoon course. I strongly doubt that you can have too much Giov Bellini, but I think that I'm going to find out, one way or the other.

Florence and Arezzo

Searching for something fresh in the fiction line to read on my upcoming trip to Florence (and Arezzo) I'm not getting any anticipatory frissons, I have to admit. There's a new Philip Kazan, called The Phoenix of Florence - we like him but it's not published until next February. Fiction set in Florence featuring Leonardo is far from rare, as are novels where conspiracies are uncovered, crimes committed and members of the Medici family murdered. Also Florence and feminism and female artists is a definite thing. So a series that mixes up all of this stuff, called the Da Vinci's Disciples series, should be no surprise. It features a team of female painters secretly trained by Leonardo and the books look to be dark and tasty, but it takes a lot to make me forgive the making of the heinous Dan Brown mistake of using Da Vinci as a surname, as regular readers will know. There is a new Marco Vichi out while I'm in Florence, but I haven't read his previous one yet. So maybe I will.

Leeds and York

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, with the temperature nudging 30 in London, nothing warms the cockles of a webmaster like the discovery that his Venetian churches site has been cited and linked to on the Tate Gallery's website and on another page on the same site The Churches of Venice is even cited to contradict the previous misidentification of a doorway!



In Venice fiction news: an email arrives from Christopher Jones, the author of White Phantom City which I read and liked a while back. He's been re-writing it and tightening it up, it seems, and it has just been republished as The Breath of the Zephyr. If you missed it first time round...

I'm just back from a week in Bologna, and my trip report will follow. But while I was away news broke that John Julius Norwich had died - a sad day for fans of Venice and for the readers and lovers of his many special books on his favourite city. He revealed his innermost passions to this very website on this page.

As the temperature creeps up and the rain falls it seems that Spring is upon us, with all the yellow flowers and forward-looking that the season demands. Me, I've got a week-long Summer School next week (I know!) at the Courtauld on the Byzantine influence on Italian art, followed by a Spring-term course at the V&A on illuminated manuscripts. Trips booked for the next six months are to Bologna, Nancy, Leeds & York and Arezzo. I hope that you've got good stuff to look forward to too.


During a conversation on my recent trip to Siena the tour manager revealed that she had been a pupil of Donna Leon during the latter's early career as a teacher, and that Donna L. now lives in Switzerland. This last fact is no secret, but it does explain the news that from the next instalment the action of the Brunetti novels is moving to Geneva. Following the unpleasantness at the end of The Temptation of Forgiveness Brunetti and the family are moved for their own safety, it seems. Your guess is as good as mine as to the crimes he might investigate. Antique cuckoo clock forgeries? Chocolate counterfeiting? The Swiss banks hanging onto Nazi gold? We'll see, next April.



Whilst waiting for the April rush of new novels set in Venice -  Donna Leon's The Temptation of Forgiveness and Philip Gwynne Jones's Vengeance in Venice  - and following upon the joys of Gregory Dowling's The Four Horsemen, the last-mentioned author tells me good things about  The Eye Stone by Roberto Tiraboschi. So that one is next up on the Kindle, not least because it's set in the 12th century - a pretty darn rare period for Venice-set fiction.

Short trips: Lincoln

My Books of 2018
Roberto Tiraboschi The Eye Stone
Imogen Hermes Gowar The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Labyrinth of the Spirits
Haruki Murakami Killing Commendatore
Sarah Perry Melmoth
Andrew Miller Now We Shall Be Entirely Free
Paraic OíDonnell The House on Vesper Sands
Christelle Dabos A Winter's Promise
 Ben Schott Jeeves and the King of Clubs
After spending 2017 reading all of the Jeeves & Wooster stories how topping
it was that Ben Schott was surprisingly able to channel the master so well.

My CDs of 2018
Nils Frahm All Melody
Neko Case Hell-On
Great Lake Swimmers The Waves, The Wake
Death Cab for Cutie Thank You for Today
Frontperson Frontrunner
Aurora Infections Of A Different Kind Ė Step 1
Eddi Reader Cavalier
Tina Dico Fastland
Dan Mangan More of Less

Evangelina Mascardi Laurent de Saint-Luc: PiŤces pour luth
Jadran Duncumb Weiss & Hasse: Lute Sonatas
My lute thing continued (two above) and a modern choral thing took hold (two below)
Latvian Radio Choir Silvestrov: To Thee We Sing
Chamber Choir of Europe Lauridsen: Les Chansons des Roses
Utopia Chamber Choir Piae Cantiones
A nice combination of troubadour pluck and percussion with choral loveliness.

My minor new-year chore was re-organising these News pages, in the light of a whole new one just beginning. Amongst things noticed were that Francesco da Mosta's much-hyped novel,
The Black King, which was due out in 2011, never did appear, and neither did the film of Miss Garnet's Angel, or the remake of Don't Look Now. But one of my favourite books of 2014 Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist was a (reportedly spiffy) big thing on TV over xmas, and another of my 2014 picks Jeff VanderMeer's The Southern Reach Trilogy has the film of its first part out in February, directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac, stars of the Star Wars prequels and sequels respectively. And if you haven't seen the very stirring Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet...why not?!

My Books of 2017
Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Game
Sylvain Neuvel Waking Gods
David Adams Cleveland Time's Betrayal
I read all of the Jeeves and Wooster stories and novels in 2017,
but if you read only one make it...
P.G. Wodehouse Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
Jennifer Egan Manhattan Beach
Glenn Haybittle The Way Back to Florence
Philip Pullman La Belle Sauvage
Blake Crouch Dark Matter
Ali Smith Winter

My CDs of 2017
Elbow Little Fictions
Dirty Projectors
The New Pornographers Whiteout Conditions
Leslie Mendelson Love & Murder
Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins
UNKLE The Road, Pt. 1
The National Sleep Well Beast
Oh Wonder Ultralife
Jim White Waffles, Triangles & Jesus

My late-life Early Music obsession mostly bedded in this year - no startling discoveries,
just a continuation of the lute-love, especially from Germany in the 18th century,
and the keenness for Biber's violin sonatas.
Ensemble Violini Capricciosi Biber - Violin Sonatas
John Schneiderman Eighteenth-Century Lute Music
Lutz Kirchhof The Lute in Dance and Dream

Festive Greetings!

Was 2017 a worse year, globally speaking, than 2016, or just more of the same? The Trump situation only got worse, certainly, not least for me because every time I read of his latest moronic outburst or action I'd spend the next hour or so humming flipping Nellie the Elephant to myself.
You know...
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk
And said goodbye to the circus
Off she went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump.

My big deal of 2017 was my 60th birthday, in March, when I started getting my work pension, free travel in London and cheaper rail journeys outside London. This last benefit didn't quite get me to as many English cathedral cities as I'd hoped, but they'll get visited in time, have no fear.

Unlike Mr Trump I learned a lot in 2017. My Byzantine and Medieval thing continued, with the Black Death featuring heavily. (Modern scholarship is easing off on the rats and putting the blame more on gerbils, don't you know.) Trips to Venice, Milan, Bologna and Urbino got the year off to a safely Italian start.  Then, following a marvellous Vermeer exhibition in Dublin in the summer, the Dutch Golden Age got my juices flowing, with an eye-opening Rembrandt etchings exhibition in Norwich, during a course dealing with Bosch and Bruegel, with a trip to Vienna to see the very best works of the latter, and a superior example of the former's work too.

As to what all this wider-horizons stuff means for my websites...well I certainly seem to have been writing more trip reports than reviews of novels set in Venice, but lives and enthusiasms and priorities change, as I'm sure you'll agree. My sites will reflect this, as more cities get their churches explored and less Venetian novels seem certain to fascinate.

So I'll sign off with a warm invitation to anyone wishing to share my horizon-broadening in 2018. But if you're happy to stay in Venice I'll see you sometime in 2018 too, no doubt.

Chins up!

Looking forward into 2018, April is looking like a good month for us fans of fiction set in Venice. As ever there's the new Brunetti from Donna Leon, called The Temptation of Forgiveness, but also Philip Gwynne Jones' Vengeance in Venice, the follow-up to
The Venetian Game which was one of 2017's best.


The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that the trip to Florence and Siena mentioned below didn't happen. This was all down to BA cancelling my flight and my not being able to face the queue and the faff of finding another flight, or flights. Or maybe it was simply fate. For by not going to Siena I attended an art lecture I would otherwise have missed. The lecturer there raving about the Rembrandt etchings exhibition at the Norwich Castle museum was timely encouragement for me to spend a few days in Norwich, becoming equally smitten by Rembrandt's etching and the city itself. So, I'm going with fate, and making a brief trip report that I'm calling...
Short trips: Norwich
Then on an evening when I wasn't in Siena I was also moved to search for architecture-themed bed linen on Etsy, and thereby found a spiffy panel of old stained glass (see photo above right) which I bought and which now embellishes my house and life. Further proof that I just wasn't meant to go to Siena, I'm thinking.

Next week I'm off to Florence for a few days, and then to Siena for a few more. Anyway, some Florence-related reading is planned - I might even have a go at The Decameron, but don't take that as a firm promise. I notice that this month has seen new books about Leonardo da Vinci, the Medici and Vasari. Did we need these subjects covered yet again? Well, I sure didn't.

Padua & Verona

Having just added a film called Le Retour de Casanova to the Venice Films page set me to wondering if it would be useful to make a Casanova Films side page, as they don't all have titles beginning with C. And maybe put the books about him on it too. Which made me wonder what other subjects of novels might deserve their own pages. Filippo Lippi has been the subject of a few novels, I realised, so maybe I could combine them and make a Men Famous for Relationships With Nuns page! Or maybe not.

You know how it goes - an author emails you to offer you a review copy of his new novel, and after months of shenanigans involving publishers dithering over delivery, changing their minds, and other hiccups and hesitations, you finally get a copy. And it's 1165 pages long! And to be ahead of the game you need to read and review it before October, when it's published. I'm sure we've all been there. The book is Time's Betrayal by David Adams Cleveland, and as I loved his two previous novels I'm confident it'll be worth the time and muscle pain. Expect a review, but not soon.


Tomorrow we're off to Dublin. Why Dublin? Well, whilst it's not unfair to accuse me of visiting major European art capitals mostly to feed my obsession with Italian art - that being my main reason for visits to Vienna, Liverpool, Birmingham and even Paris in recent years - in this case the main draw is a big Vermeer exhibition - Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting. This is my first visit, to Ireland and Dublin, so ogling of Georgian architecture and literary pilgrimage spots will probably be indulged in too. And then there's The Book of Kells.

A guidebook to Verona has just been published in Germany with one of my photos inside! I tell you this, with scans (see right) not just to blow my own trumpet but to also blow a big raspberry at Brexit - ffftttpppttt!

When I read that Richard Russo's new story collection Trajectory contained a novella-length story set in Venice I was immediately interested, and looking forward to a new story from an author whose previous Venice-set books have been gems. Imagine my disappointment, then, in discovering that the story, called Voice, is just Nate in Venice, read and reviewed four years ago, with a new title. What can I say but 'grrrr'?


ĎSo, Jeff, whatís happening?í I hear you ask. Well, Iím off on an art historical tour to Urbino towards the end of next week, and then itís a biggish gap, trip-wise, until a week in Dublin in August, mostly to see the Vermeer exhibition (which is moving from Paris in June), but the Book of Kells is also a draw, and the city itself, of course. The trip-gap will be used to visit more English cathedrals Ė my project of 2017. Books-wise there's
 A Trial in Venice being read and the promise of a review copy of Sansovino's Venice by Vaughan Hart, a rare new translation and annotation of the famed guidebook of 1561.

Psst, fancy a good read? Well
in Donna Leon's Earthly Remains and Philip Gwynne Jones' The Venetian Game you'll find that April has already provided a couple of essentials, and my copy of  A Trial in Venice, mentioned below, has just arrived too. In other news, provided by The Venetian Game, it turns out that the long and low arch of striped pipe amongst the chimneys in the oil refinery in Marghera, visible from the Zattere, is called the Arch of Cracking. Who knew?


A couple of new Venice novels with reviews coming soon. Firstly A Trial in Venice by Roberta Rich which sees Hannah, the heroine of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife, return to Venice, and the Ghetto, after some years living in Constantinople. Then there's a novel by Philip Gwynne Jones called The Venetian Game which has a plot involving a prayer book illustrated by Giovanni Bellini. I've also found a 'new' film set in Venice - a musical called The Broadway Gondolier from 1935, starring Dick Powell and Joan Blondell. I doubt there's any location filming but a good deal of the (reportedly preposterous) plot is set in Venice. But firstly to Bologna, tomorrow, for a week.


A quiet February draws to a close and a somewhat hectic March is in prospect. My birthday on the 6th is my 60th and, apart from numerological coincidences, it sees me reach the age when I can get free travel in the whole of London with the 60+ Oyster, cheap fares on train journeys in the whole country with the Senior Railcard, and start receiving my work pension. Hallelujah! The plastic cards for the first two have been acquired and are waiting for action. The process for the last is well progressed too. My birthday is also Michelangelo's and to celebrate his birthday the Accademia Gallery in Florence are introducing a friends' membership scheme, sweetly named The Friends of David! Trips-wise I'm off on the 8th on a guided tour around Medieval Milan, and later in March I'm self-propelling to Bologna. My request for a review copy of the new Donna Leon has as usual fallen on deaf inboxes at Heinemann, it seems, but I'm confident of getting it onto my Kindle by some means, foul or fair. But that's a matter for April, lets celebrate March first.


   A fine cold time was had.

Timothy Williams, the author responsible for the Commissario Trotti series, had the fifth novel in the series reviewed by me in the earliest days of this site. He was not getting published at the time so I championed him by putting up some chapters of the 6th Trotti novel here. He has been comprehensively reprinted since, and at long last Trotti 6 is going to be published, on the 18th of May. I have an advance copy here, so expect a review soon. In other upcoming reviews news... A Florence Diary by Diana Athill and Venice, An Interior by Javier MarŪas are a pair of slim volumes in the 'personal reminiscence' vein published before Christmas.

Well that's 2016 and its festive period over, and good riddance to both. My lack of festive cheer is due to our cat Peter's illness worsening after Christmas, and us having to make that sad last trip to the vet on the 29th. He was a devoted and affectionate cat who will be sorely missed and warmly remembered. Attempting to lift our gloom we've booked a sudden few days in Venice for later in January, encouraged by those of you who have written recommending the ease and crowdlessness of winter stays. Chins up, then, with wishes for 2017 being a relief after 2016.




click on the links below to read news from
   2007-8   2009-10   2011-12   2013-14   2015-16  2020-21


Venice // Florence // London // Berlin