Dream of Venice is a travel book, but it is also a story of love dedicated to an unforgettable enchantress – La Serenissima, as she has been known for over a thousand years. Historically significant as a once powerful city-state and center of great art, culture, and international trade and commerce during the Renaissance, Venice has cast her magical spell upon humanity for centuries, and shows no signs of curtailing her bewitching on those who visit.
I invited JoAnn Loctov, editor of the Dream of Venice compilation, to join me in the Decorating Diva Style Study to discuss this luxe and sumptuous new addition to the travel book genre. JoAnn’s thoughtful and inspiring commentary cast light upon the mysterious allure of Venice, and the power La Serenissima has to transform visitors to her shores into love-struck travelers – who find they can never forget her.
Decorating Diva: Venice has been the beautiful backdrop for many great films, and has been the protagonist of many books from travel to romance to mysteries. Why do you think this small Italian city holds such power over the human imagination?
JoAnn Locktov: I believe that Venice was not actually built from wood pilings but from the human imagination. How else could one even envision a city like Venice if it was not born of the suspension of reality? There is a beauty to Venice that beguiles the brain; it is the combination of shadows, light, stones, and silence. Where else can the improbable reside, except your imagination? Venice is the perfect liminal space, which explains her power to astound.
DD: Though each Dream of Venice contributor views Venice through their own personal prism, I felt that each story was in a way a love letter to Venice. Each contributor, varied as their contributions where – whether poetry, a memory committed to print or passages from a fictional novel- appears to have fallen deeply in love with Venice. My feeling is that Venice to them, is that one unforgettable love that never fades. Is Venice a love story for you as well?
JL: Venice captivated my heart, the moment I saw the city rise from the lagoon. The revelation that I could even fall in love with a place on earth came as a huge shock. We love our parents, our spouse, our children, our family, and our friends. We may even love a furry creature. But to love a city was a predicament that had never occurred to me. Venice (like most infatuations) is both a mystery and a challenge. She tolerates my affection, but is in no great hurry to reveal her secrets. I have been fortunate to visit other beautiful cities, but none have seduced me the way Venice has with her preternatural beauty. Venice inspires in me a great desire for comprehension – of history, literature, and art. But ultimately Venice has the remarkable ability to inspire introspection. I think it must be the reflection of all that water.
DD: Finish the following thought, Venice is..
JL: A treasure that I will continue to explore and honor in the series of books that I am publishing. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold is being donated to Save Venice to support their vital restorations and strengthen this city that has captured my imagination.
It is impossible to find my way without getting lost, one wrong turn and I’m in a new campo I’ve never seen before. In the fog Venice looks more like an apparition than a city. There is a loss of control in Venice; it is a place more than any other where I am forced to trust my intuition.
DD: What are a few places highlighted within the pages of Dream of Venice that you personally love and would recommend other travelers to visit?
JL: In Venice there is only one piazza, and your visit should comprise going there as often as possible. No matter what month you travel, Piazza San Marco will be crowded mid-day, so plan to visit at dawn and at dusk to avoid the hoards of tourists. I agree with Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, who wrote, “ Not going to San Marco every day is like having a unicorn in your living room and ignoring it.”
There is a photo of a wonderful bacaro, crowded with people enjoying an ombra and cicchetti. Cantinone “Gia Schiavi” in the Dorsoduro opened in 1890, in a building constructed in 1200. Stopping at dusk for a glass of wine and bite to eat is a delicious Venetian tradition, providing a respite for conversation and transition to evening. The cicchetti here are award winning and the choice of wines excellent. It is a historic and convivial place across the way from the Squero San Troviso, where gondolas are built and repaired.
The Rialto Bridge and market are the heart of Venice, where merchants have sold their silks and spices, farmers their artichokes and eggplants, and fishermen their clams and sardines since the Middle Ages. Roger Crowley reminds us in Dream of Venice that the Rialto was the “souk of the Western world.” When you stop on the bridge to admire the Grand Canal and listen carefully you can hear Shylock asking, “What news on the Rialto?”
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