My name is Jeff Cotton and I'm the creator, photographer and writer of this site. I live in South West London, in an area amusingly called Tooting. It's near Wimbledon, if that helps. I was born in north London, in Shoreditch, and spent my formative years living in Hoxton, when it was still a place where real people lived. Until October 2011 I worked as a librarian for Hackney Council, initially in Shoreditch but latterly in Stoke Newington.

North and South London - that's the halves each side of the Thames - are like separate cities and you generally stay living on the side where you were born, and mistrust and avoid people from the other half.  But I can now confirm that South London does not, as is often said, smell funny.

I've done various bits of freelance music reviewing down the years, from a start with Prestel (an early primitive internet-like thing) through a few years on a magazine called Which CD? in the early days of the compact disc, to Comes With a Smile, an indie music magazine which folded in 2006. I started Fictional Cities in 1998. I also spent a couple of years writing weekly video-game reviews for The Observer, a UK Sunday newspaper, but gave that up in December 2006 to devote more time to making websites for writers, which seemed appropriate in a way that, say, working with death-metal bands did not.

In 2007 I began making a website devoted to
The Churches of Venice
and in 2011 The Churches of Florence. Later in 2011 I took early retirement from my day job, giving me more time to devote to the websites, travel and art-history courses.

If you want to buy any of my books please click HERE

Click here to send me an e-mail



My sweet page about
Oscar and Peter

The Venice Questions
An historical document, dating back to 2010, when I was
asking other people these same questions.

Do you have a film/book/artist that made a visit to Venice essential for you.
I think that it must've been all those Canaletto views in the country houses my Mum and Dad took me around that first hooked me. And then Don't Look Now and Brideshead Revisited.

Do you remember your first visit?
I remember that when we got home friends would ask did we go in the Doge's Palace or the Basilica, but we'd spent the whole week just walking around with our mouths open - not going into one museum or church.

What is your single most magical experience in Venice?
Wandering around Cannaregio one fine evening and feeling...that thing, where you feel an indefinable sense of being in the right place, of belonging. Maybe a past life intruding?

And your worst?
Having one whole week where everything about the trip was so lacking in lustre that I thought that maybe I was getting bored with Venice. I was wrong.

Why do you/don’t you live in Venice?
I'm too poor, and too fond of London, vegetable samosas, chickpea curries, Chelsea buns, relatively uncorrupt government, etc.

Where would you live in Venice if you could choose. And why.
Giudecca, I think, for still being a bit real, and quiet and airy. Or maybe northern Cannaregio or eastern Castello, for similar reasons.

What are your favourite books set in Venice?
Michael Dibdin - Dead Lagoon, Mary Hoffman - Stravaganza: City of Masks, Barry Unsworth -
Stone Virgin,
and anything by Donna Leon, Michelle Lovric and Edward Sklepowich.

Is there a book (guidebook or not) that you always have to take?
Antonio Manno - The Treasures of Venice. Too glossy and heavy to carry around, really, but also comprehensive and reliable.

What music plays on your iPod when you walk around Venice?
The Cocteau Twins

Do you have a favourite …
… Part of Venice
Northern Cannaregio
… Restaurant
… Church
San Zaccaria
… Gelato flavour
Vanilla and/or cinnamon
… Pizza topping
The Veneziana - onions, capers, pine nuts, raisins, never to be found in Venice.

And what’s you least favourite aspect.
The graffiti.

Do you think that Venice is dying/drowning?
Not as much as it likes to wallow in thinking it is, and always has.

If you were Mayor of Venice for one day, what would you do?
I'd ban those huge tower-block cruise liners from the lagoon, employ a few graffiti-removal teams, enforce poop-scooping laws for dog owners, and make it illegal for anyone to visit Venice if they have a name that doesn't begin with the letter J.

Venice // Florence // London // Berlin