Book ideas for a trip to Venice?

*Update: As this is an old post, you can visit the final list of chosen recommendations here, with reviews.

I was given the most wonderful Christmas present this year by my boyfriend who booked us a trip to Venice at the end of January!



J.M.W Turner, The Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, 1834


I actually had a little weep when I opened my envelope and discovered the destination. This was made all the more exciting by some successful misdirection as my boyfriend printed out red-herring travel details for a trip to York on the erm… Megabus. A trip to York would be fun, but Venice is infinitely more exciting! I went to Florence when I was 16 and have had a hankering to go back to Italy ever since.

So I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to take along a book set in Venice? I found an exhaustive list here, however it’s a little overwhelming and I’m not sure where to start! The one that springs to mind is The Wings of the Dove by Henry James, but I’d quite like to find something actually about Italians in Venice, rather than English people in Venice. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts especially if you can suggest something with a bit of intrigue, and maybe murder – something a little dramatic!

Any ideas?

15 responses to “Book ideas for a trip to Venice?

  1. I’ll read Invisible cities by Italo Calvino. It really is a nice book.
    you can also read classics like The Merchant of Venice or Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.
    happy 2010.

    • Thanks Armen – great suggestions, I’m curious about what Invisible Cities and Death in Venice are all about so I’ll have to do a bit of Googling!

  2. Oh you lucky thing Polly what a wonderful present! I would take Death in Venice and Other Stories, I havent read it but own it and want to. Venice is featured in the wonderful Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, and Susan Hill sets a brilliant ghost story there with ‘The Man in the Picture’.

    I am so jealous, I may not be able to speak to you for a while hahaha.

    • I know, fabulous isn’t it!! I have read The Man in the Picture which I think (I mean I know that you gave me). I will have to read up about Death in Venice, and am liking the fact that Venice is featured in a Collin’s novel! Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  3. What a wonderful present! I haven’t read any of her books but for something a bit lighter Donna Leon writes a series set in Venice about an Italian detective – might be worth checking out. Enjoy!

  4. I’d second the suggestion of Invisble Cities, and throw in The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, which has intirgue and murder a plenty!

  5. I have just read the synopsis for The Passion and it sounds FABULOUS! I have never read any Winterson before but this seems like the perfect one to start with 🙂 Invisible Cities does sound wonderful too – a sort of series of impressions?

  6. Oh you lucky, lucky person! Venice at the end of January is just fantastic – and I have been four times at that time of year! If you manage to avoid the start of Carnival, when things get incredibly busy, it is probably the ideal time to just wander and get lost and stop at little bars for a restorative espresso (bit cold for an ice cream !) and then wander on. One thing to do is take the No 1 vaporetto down the Grand Canal and look at all the wonderful palazzo and hotels.
    It only rained once on our trips, the others were blessed with low temperatures but blue skies and wintery sun – bliss.
    Oh and definitely take a Donna Leon – with the early ones you don’t necessarily have to read them in order!

    • Oh thanks so much for the lovely tips. That makes me happy as I was thinking we would miss Carnival and it would be a shame but sounds like it might be a good thing! I am just soooooo excited and have popped the first Donna Leon on my Amazon wishlist 🙂

  7. Pingback: Venice: A literary list «

  8. A short story you might consider is ‘The Bridge of Sighs’ by Gail Jones.
    Otherwise Mark Twain wrote a great satire based on his trip to Venice; I think it was called ‘Innocents Abroad’.


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