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Booked in Venice- a Venetian tryst with books in tow

Venice, the most romantic of the cities in the world. There was a time when Paris topped the list, but I suspect those days are over. Venice has charmed people for centuries and continues to do so. There is something mystical about a city on water. However cliched it may sound, nothing quite prepares you for the pleasant surprise when you board a waterbus and cruise the lashing waves of the Adriatic sea to enter the Grand Canal, the main waterway of Venice. But once you arrive in the city that rests on water, you can be sure that its mystical charm will not elude you…

We stayed quite near St. Mark’s Square, which put us right in the middle of all the action. No regrets here! The heart of Venice, this square is a pulsating hub of the city.


Venetian Décor

If you’re a fan of beautiful interiors, there is a lot for you here. Our hotel, Hotel Royal S Marco, had rooms decorated in the traditional Venetian manner. This immediately gave me what I like to call, “the Venetian Décor bug!”.


Just by-the-by, if you are also keen on Venetian décor, you may refer to Venetian Interiors: 50 Irreplaceable Sites To Discover, Explore, and Champion for inspiration on contemporary Venetian interior design and decoration. Another book, Venetian Gardens, offers a ‘green’ insight into the city. It uncovers the gardens of Venice.

Books are one thing, but make sure you buy a few souvenirs to give your home a touch of Venice. As you stroll around the city and the little shops dotting it, look out for the Murano glass items, some wonderful masks, lots of books and some enticing images of gondolas. Some of the artwork depicting the famous landscapes of Venice and the buildings, is also noteworthy.


Love and romance in books….booked in Venice!

I picked up a copy of Giacomo Casanova – The Story of my Life in one of the many bookshops that dot the town. This is the perfect book to read when in Venice. After all, Casanova, the legendary seducer was born here. In fact, he built such as reputation for himself that today, the very definition of a Casanova is a man who is passionate about women and has many lovers! The book is a translation of the autobiography of the most notorious lover and is filled with tales of his amorous conquests! Of course, Venice, the city has a strong presence in his work.

Those who love Venice will be pleased to find the magic of the city evoked in many timeless classics. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, beautifully brings out the days of the bustling hub in the days before the infamous plague. It is the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous author in his early fifties, who seeks travel as a way to resolve the writer’s block. Underlying tones of erotic homosexual love pervade the book, as do certain philosophical principles.


Venice is often the setting of Donna Leon’s mysteries. The author of the highly acclaimed internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series favours Venice!

The book trade and the publishing industry flourished in Venice centuries ago. The old-world charm of that legacy still remains and you can feel it as you move about the market place. You may want to buy antique books or notebooks with the most exquisite binding. While there are several shops selling editions of popular classics and books bound with the authentic Venetian touch, we found Charta Venezia very charming. You may read our story on the shop here: My purchase from the store was a couple of exquisite hand painted leather bookmarks depicting scenes from my favourite books!

There is the old Rialto bridge, standing proudly, just like it did in the days when this bustling market place was crowded with book publishers. Yes, Venice used to be a hub of book publishing! Bound in Venice by Alessandro Marzo Magno traces the dawn of the book in the city on water.



Doge’s Palace


The Doge’s Palace used to be the seat of the Venetian government in the past. We did the “Secret Interior’s Tour” where we visited secret passageways and prison cells, as well as the cell of Casanova, who was imprisoned here. We took a peek outside from the “bridge of sighs” where prisoner’s sighed in despair as they watched their city for the last time before being taken inside the dungeons. I would highly recommend a visit here, preferably with a pre-booked guided tour, which will give a different perspective to the trip.


The Gondola Magic


It is hyped, but then you can’t really go to Venice and not ride on a Gondola! They may be overpriced, but if you don’t mind spending that extra buck, it is an experience to traverse through the narrow water ways and feel transported into a magical land! And yes, you could read The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli. Set in Renaissance Venice, this is the story of Luca Vianello, the heir to a renowned gondola-making enterprise. He finds himself drawn to restore an antique gondola. His dream is to take a girl for a ride! This interesting historical fiction book is intrinsically linked to the gondola.


For the little ones…


Kids and Venice? Before you wonder let me tell you it is not that bad an idea either. Yes, navigating the strollers is a workout. But, get past it and there is a lot to fascinate little minds.

When children read some books about Venice before the trip here, it will enrich their experience. For 7-10 year olds, Carnival at Candlelight, from The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne is my favourite when it comes to this. Follow the adventures of Jack and Annie as they head back in time to Venice of the late 1700s. With the help of a research book, a book of magic rhymes, and a set of mysterious instructions from Merlin, the children will save the beautiful city from a flood. And if your kid happens to be a Genonimo Stilton fan, The Mystery in Venice would be a good accompaniment.


Venice For Kids by Tullio F. Altan, a book available on kindle is an apt touristic introduction to kids of all ages. Venice: A 3D Keepsake Cityscape (Panorama Pops) is a little keepsake pop-up book that gives information in 3D.


We did not have the time to do a mask-making workshop when we were there, but I think it would be quite interesting to do it. I was quite fascinated by the plague-doctor mask that I saw there!


The most beautiful bookshop in the world


And yes, while you’re in Venice, how can you not visit “the most beautiful bookshop in the world?”, at least that is what the owners say so! I would not entirely disagree. We navigated   though the little pathways and bridges and walked our way right into the Libreria “Acqua Alta” meaning “Book Store of High Water.”

There were books everywhere. Since we were in the flood prone Venice we were not surprised to see that books, maps and knick-knacks were stored in wash basins and bathtubs. They were stacked right till the ceiling. There was even a gondola filled with books, but of course! We made our way through the crowded book alleys within the shop into the fire escape, which is a staircase made entirely of books overlooking the canal.


Not all those who wander are lost

One of the best things to do in Venice is to wander about and lose yourself in the narrow lanes. We loved moving about, soaking in the venetian charm, waving out to passing Gondolas and marvelling at the architecture.  The city reveals and unravels itself slowly. Once you’ve gone past the touristy trappings, you might just uncover a bit of the spirit of wondrous Venice! Are you ready to be booked in Venice?




Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.