Book Review | Dream of Venice

Dream of Venice

Very few readers of Ciao Amalfi will know that the first spot I visited in Italy was Venice. After dreaming of traveling to Italy for years, my first big trip to Europe and to Italy took me to Venice – and only Venice. With just a side visit to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. (What did you expect … a day trip to Verona?) I’ve always been one to want to really focus on one place rather than hop, skip and jumping around. It was a marvelous week spent wandering, getting obliviously lost, discovering the quietest piazzas I’ve ever seen and experiencing the first taste of what I would come much later to know – Italy was deep within me.

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Because of that first visit and all that it meant, I’ve always had a soft spot for Venice. So when I first saw the cover of Dream of Venice my heart gave a little flutter. A mini coffee table style book, Dream of Venice is a compilation of writings dedicated to Venice that have been compiled and edited by JoAnn Locktov and beautifully accompanied by photographs by Charles Christopher. Each writing selection is paired with a photograph of the city, and both words and imagery form a story that twists and weaves through the winding canals, nighttime mystery and enchantment that is Venice.

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Dream of Venice opens with a foreword by Frances Mayes, which sets the scene. She writes, “Venice is a state of mind. That is, the scintillating, kaleidoscopic, shifting colors of that watery realm remain alive inside me long after I depart the actual city.” That took me right back to 2001 when I stood on the Ponte dell’Accademia clinging to the wooden railing taking everything in while not quite believing I was actually there. By the time I left it was alive inside me just as Mayes described, and reading the passages in Dream of Venice and getting lost in Charles Christopher’s photos was an immense delight. Anyone who has been to Venice will treasure this book and anyone dreaming of traveling there will adore it!

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One of the parts I enjoyed the most about Dream of Venice was the blend of different voices and and writing styles united by a love of Venice. Rachel Dacus enchants with a poem entitled “Wearing Venice” and the mystery of Venice’s darker sides come alive in the writings of Julie Christie, Linus Roache and Marcella Hazan. The captivating descriptions of winter in Venice have made me want to return to experience that side of La Serenissima.

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When you need a little jolt of Venice, this book is just right. The length of the entries paired with each photo is just right for picking up and enjoying a few with a cup of tea. Well, that’s my style, but there are also some good espresso or cappuccino sized entries, too. You’ll be dreaming of Venice in no time at all!

 

Find out more about Dream of Venice or buy Dream of Venice on Amazon.

 

(All Images by Charles Christopher and used courtesy Bella Figura Communications)

2011 Regatta in Venice Annulled

Regatta Results 2011

I wish it was with happier news that I was writing this morning about the results of the 56th Regata Storica delle Reppubliche Marinare that took place in Venice yesterday. No, I’m not sad that Amalfi didn’t win, or came in a close second like they did in 2009 and 2010. I’m disappointed to have to report that everyone lost yesterday, in what will likely be remembered as one of the worst regattas in the fifty-six year history of this event.

As the race was run, and by all accounts in Venice, the Amalfi team won. The team had a fantastic race, managing to pull ahead of the favored team Pisa to win by a photo finish. Surprisingly just like how Pisa won last year. Unfortunately, there were problems with the course that were contested, and problems with the Pisa team being remarkably poor losers. (They should have taken a lesson from the Amalfi team that lost by a similarly small margin last year, but in a much more respectable way.) But the more serious problems were the issues with the course. Even though Amalfi was announced the winner, it wasn’t long before not only Amalfi’s win but also the positions of the successive Pisa and Genoa teams were contested. Apparently, it was said by the Venice team that came in last, that they were the only ones that stayed on course and that the other teams should be disqualified. And that is exactly what happened. After nearly two hours of tension, meetings with the judges and the mayors of Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice, it was decided that the only result that could not be contested was just to annul the regatta. What a shame. I don’t understand in detail yet just what happened with the course or the buoys or the judging, but it seems like that is where the real problems are. My hope is that something positive can come of this in taking better steps to organize the event. And I also hope that a shadow won’t be cast over this event, which is supposed to represent the high points in the history of each of the four great sea republics of Italy.

The online newspaper Il Foglio Costa d’Amalfi has covered the event in great detail, and published an article this morning focused on who really won and who lost at this year’s regatta. (It’s in Italian, but there are videos at the end from the RAI 2 TV coverage.) They expressed disappointment that this type of debaucle had to mark the year that Italy celebrates its 150th anniversary. It is disappointing. But what is the most disappointing to me is that the all teams have to walk away from the regatta with such a bad experience, after a year of very hard work. I am sad for the Amalfi team that has been practicing so hard all winter and spring and had an excellent race yesterday.

The Regata Storica delle Reppubliche Marinare is in Amalfi next year, but I’m afraid that the bitter feeling left from this year’s regatta in Venice will likely hang over the event for many years to come.

Tempting Tuesday: In Love with Venice by Cecil Lee

While Venice might not be geographically all that close to the Amalfi Coast, it is a place very close to my heart. The first time I traveled to Italy, I visited Venice and only Venice (with a little jaunt to see the Museo Ferrari in Maranello), and it was a memorable trip. For this week’s Tempting Tuesday, Cecil Lee, an avid traveler and photographer, tells us about his experiences visiting Venice earlier this year.

Welcome, Cecil!

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One of the cities that I love most in Italy is definitely Venice. Venice is composed of 118 small islands separating by canals. It is sited along Adriatic Sea in Northeast Italy. Not unexpectedly, it is also the most valuable island in Italy as researches tell us that Venice is sinking by 5mm each year and by the year 2050, most parts of Venice will be underwater! In fact, many parts of the city are already sunken into water and long vacant. When I was there last summer, St. Mark’s Square, the most famous landmarks in Venice, was partly flooded in the morning during high tide.

 

Venice1 Cecil Lee Photo by Cecil Lee

 

How should I describe Venice? I was stunned and amazed by the beautiful scenic view of the city when I first visited the island. The whole city is surrounded by sea and divided by canals. Naturally, the main means of transportation there is by water. Most of the great buildings are not new. They were constructed centuries ago and many of them are already partly sunken into sea water!

Tourists attractions are mainly concentrated along the main waterway, Grand Canal of Venice. Hotels, restaurants, shops and pubs are spread along it and around the Rialto Bridge. But I like to explore further into the local lifestyle, by walking away from the tourists spots without the worry of getting lost. There are always signs showing the direction back to Rialto Bridge or Piazza San Marco. Drinking coffee and eating home made pizza with Venetians in any of the local cafés and restaurants is definitely exciting and rewarding.

 

Venice2 Cecil Lee Photo by Cecil Lee

 

Of course, I love also those main tourists attractions in Venice, such as St. Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge. Make sure you bring enough memory SD cards, because I snap, snap and snap not less than 1000 photos when I was in Venice! The sky was so blue and clear, the sunlight so bright and beautiful and my photos all turned out fantastic. Though the sun was hot, I could always cool down by eating gelato after gelato!

 

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Having coffee at the outdoor seating of the famous Florian coffee bar in St. Mark’s Square, listening to live violin music and witnessing the colors of the sunset in front of the historical St. Mark’s Basilica was an enchanting experience.

I love also the romantic setting all over Venice especially the gondola ride along the Grand Canal, which definitely will make your stay in Venice a memorable honeymoon trip. The environment there is perfect for falling in love, so be careful who you go to Venice with!

Whoever has seen Venice will definitely want to go back for more. I’m certainly one of them…

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Cecil Lee is an avid traveler who is also a passionate travel blogger and travel photographer living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and on his own travel photo blog, Travel Feeder.

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Have you been to Venice? What do you remember most?

Finding “Real” Italy in Venice & Naples

 

Over the past month I’ve been honored to have some of my favorite writers around the internet stopping by with guest posts, and this Sunday I have a special treat for Italy fans. Jessica Spiegel, the Italy expert at WhyGo Italy, will share some of her travel stories about two of her favorite places in Italy – Naples and Venice. 

Welcome, Jessica!

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Of all the places I’ve visited in Italy so far, the one I talk about most often with the language of a lovesick teenager is Venice. I’m fairly convinced that I could easily – and happily – forget who I am in Venice, which is why I’m also convinced I should visit often but not live there.

 

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When I finally visited Naples for the first time, then, I was surprised to find myself accidentally writing the word "Venice" instead of "Naples" when I sat down to collect my thoughts. Aside from both cities being within the borders of modern-day Italy and close to water, what could Venice and Naples possibly have in common that they’d be so easily confused in my brain? It took some philosophizing as I wandered the streets of Naples’ historic center to parse it out, but I think I managed to figure out what was going on.

 

Venice has never felt like "real" Italy to me, whatever "real" Italy means. It’s something out of a postcard that, by some weird rip in the space-time continuum, you get to walk around in. It’s not terribly difficult to get away from the tourist crowds that dominate certain parts of Venice, but there is still that feeling of urgency when you walk out of the train station into one of the most crowded areas in the city – that feeling that you need to escape as quickly as possible, to find that elusive quiet corner before you can properly enjoy the city.

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Naples is completely on the other end of that spectrum. It feels intensely real – almost oppressively so. Although there are quieter places in Naples, the crowds you might be inclined to escape aren’t made up of tourists. And for me, escaping wasn’t on the agenda. I fell in love with the scenery in Naples, and the bustle of everyday life was very much a part of that scenery. The frenetic energy of even the historic center – gaggles of teenagers around the fried food take-out windows, shopkeepers good-naturedly hollering at one another, scooters and cars zipping past pedestrians within a hair’s breadth of arms and hips – isn’t necessarily calming, but it adds pretty vibrant colors and textures to the work of art that is Naples.

 

What, then, would cause my subconscious to confuse the words "Venice" and "Naples," when I’m well aware the two cities are so different?

 
Certainly part of the answer lies in the fact that by the time I began writing about my stay in Naples, I’d already fallen in love with the city in the similarly illogical way that I love Venice. But the conclusion I came to – as I realized I couldn’t stop taking photographs everywhere I went in Naples – was that it’s the beautiful decay of both cities that I find so intoxicating.

 

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For all its polish and pomp, Venice is still a city crumbling into the water before our eyes. The marble on the Basilica San Marco gleams, and yet the floor inside undulates as the ground beneath it sinks. And when you get away from the well-trodden tourist paths in Venice, you find that much of the city isn’t quite so well polished as the basilica’s marble.

Naples takes this a step further, because Naples isn’t trying to lay out a red carpet for anyone. There’s a "take it or leave it" attitude, it seems, and no attempt made to put on airs. The streets are dirty, there is graffiti all over the place, buildings are often a faded version of their original color, and there’s a constant din of city noise. But unlike Venice, the decay in Naples doesn’t appear to be an indication of a city falling apart. On the contrary, those shops in the historic center, the ones that you enter through worn stone doorways, have been there for centuries. They just sell different stuff now.

 

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I’ll admit that neither Venice nor Naples is necessarily easy to love, although the challenges each presents to visitors are very different. But both cities offer handsome rewards to people who choose to overcome those challenges.

The reward for visitors in Venice is the real-life experience of postcard Italy; the kind of feeling you’ll pinch yourself about for years afterward. The reward for visitors in Naples is amplified Italian culture; a glimpse of the passion that keeps this crazy country moving forward while still embracing its past.

 
And both Venice and Naples are absolutely worth the effort.

 

About the Author:
Jessica Spiegel is the Italy expert at BootsnAll, and the woman behind BootsnAll’s Italy travel guide: WhyGo Italy. She’s happy to answer all kinds of Italy travel questions, from how to find cheap airfare to Italy to whether to buy an Italy rail pass to how to spend two weeks in Italy.

* All photos used in this post are © Jessica Spiegel and cannot be used without express permission.