This site is all about how stories add spice to our ideas and feelings about the cities we love. And often we only know cities through the stories we've read. My favourites have long been London, Venice, and Florence and so I made this site, where I list and review all sorts of novels and films set in these three cities. Each city has its indulgent side pages too. These deal with subjects like
Venice's cats
, London's cakes and Lost Florence.

I've also been casting my net wider of late and posting reports on my trips to other European cities, as a service to travellers who share my enthusiasm for art, churches, cakes, cats, and ice cream.
Fictions feature here too.
You'll find the trips listed on the handy
Trips Menu

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into the box as usual and then type in

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The Friends of Fictional Cities
and the Churches of Venice and Florence

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click on the titles and trips to read all about them

News of novels for us to look forward to in 2022. The Angels of Venice by Philip Gwynne Jones sees Nathan Sutherland investigating the death of an art historian during 2019's bad floods, but we'll have to wait until July to read it. Venice-set books containing the word Angel are far from rare - Miss Garnett's Angel, The City of Falling Angels, The Garden of Angels, The Painter of Angels and Angel of Venice, to name several. The new Brunetti from Donna Leon is published in March, a few days before my birthday, as usual, and is called Give Unto Others. Also it'll be 30 years next year since the first Brunetti, Death at La Fenice.

With only a couple of cold months left in 2021 I am becoming resigned to staying in my own country until next year. Travel to Europe  has become possible, but what with the talk of passenger locator forms, green passes, and the PCR/antigen tests business, not to mention the need to wear a mask, I am think that waiting for the Spring might make for a pleasanter experience. The first of my guided art trips postponed to 2022 is Toulouse in March - neatly exactly two years after my last (covid-cursed) trip abroad, to the Van Eyck exhibition in Ghent. Two years! Still I've kept busy and my churches pages have all been refreshed with book reading and updated with reports from more intrepid travellers, as well as sundry sprucings up and tidyings. Some memorable travel around my own country too. Onward!

I came back from my trip to Durham to weather not as cold as when I went, and a letter from the NHS inviting me to book my covid booster jab.  I went online that night and booked an appointment the next  morning at a vaccination centre in an ex-chemist's near Amen Corner. It all went v. smoothly, with no queuing, and while I was waiting my statutory 10 minutes before leaving one of the volunteers kept me entertained showing me her string tricks, where you entwine and knot a loop of string around your fingers and them tug an end and it comes miraculously undone, without the loss of even one finger. Magic! Or to put it another way – isn’t the NHS wonderful!


Fans of
The Master, Colm Tóibín's fictionalised life of Henry James, will be excited by the prospect of The Magician, a similarly sharp look at the life of another very Venice-connected author, Thomas Mann. I've only just started it but it already has me, not least for, when dealing with Mann's early years in Lübeck, not flinching from his early encounters with marzipan, what made Lübeck famous.


As Italy no longer requires that travellers from Britain quarantine for five days I've been idly toying with the idea of booking a week (or so) in Ferrara and/or Venice in mid-October. Seven nights at the hotel I stayed at last time in Venice, the Palazzo Stern, is €2184 euros. But the Mercure where I stayed in Ferrara last time is Ł304 for seven nights. Both are 4-star and both include breakfast and the ability to cancel for free. Madness! Or I might just wait until January or February 2022 in the hope of more normality having returned by then.

As the supposed return of post-Covid normality in England is upon us the facts contradict the assertions that this is a wise move, and that it will actually be achieved soon. It doesn't look like we'll be casting off masks anytime soon, if we're sensible, and the prospect of foreign travel remains shaky. It's looking like the nearest I'll be getting to Venice this year might be the tempting Canaletto exhibition in Bath

I have just started reading a novel by Sarah Winman called Still Life. The recommendations promoting it were so fulsome and gushing that I approached it with a fair amount of scepticism, which was swiftly dashed by the sparky and engaging opening and the extremely pungent picture painted of Florence in 1944, as the Germans retreat. Stay tuned for a full review soon.

I'm just back from a week in Edinburgh and it sure felt good staying a while in a hotel in a new city, complaining about the breakfast, and exploring churches, a fine gallery and so many burial grounds! And discovering the local confectionary. Click on the link over on the right there to share in it all.

On the 17th of May museums and galleries reopened and so I've been busy going out. The Victoria & Albert museum and the National Gallery, twice each, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, today for the excellent Thomas Becket exhibition, and on Wednesday I've the John Soane Museum, an old personal fave. Phew! as I'm sure you'll agree. These visits have all needed prebooking, with the numbers of visitors kept very enjoyably low. The return-to-normality date of 21st June has just this evening been postponed until 19th July, which is disappointing but - selfish silver lining - may keep these numbers down pleasantly for a while longer.

old news here

November 2021
Daniel Wallace Maze Young Bellini Venice

September & October 2021
Durham Trips
Serge Simonart Venezia Venice

August 2021
Suffolk Trips
Carpaccio in Venice: a guide Venice

July 2021
E.M. Forster A Room with a View Florence
Sarah Winman
Still Life Florence
Norwich Trips

June 2021
Edinburgh Trips
Cathedral Towns Between Lockdowns Trips
Cynthia Saltzman Napoleon’s Plunder and the Theft
of Veronese’s Feast

April 2021
David Hewson The Garden of Angels Venice
Laurie R. King Island of the Mad Venice
Anna Bellani The Venetian Safari

March 2021
Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Legacy Venice
Jonathan Chalstrey Punch! Florence
Amelia B. Edwards The Story Of Salome short story Venice
Ross King The Bookseller of Florence Florence
Donna Leon Transient Desires Venice

January & February 2021
Francis Spufford Light Perpetual London
Lily and Minnie New cats

October 2020
Lucretia Grindle The Faces of Angels Florence
Valerie Martin I Give It To You Florence
Us Venice TV

August & September 2020
Christobel Kent The Viper Florence
Norwich Trips

July 2020
Chris Beckett Two Tribes London
David Hewson Shooter in the Shadows Venice
Dorian Gerhold London Bridge and its Houses
David Mitchell Utopia Avenue
Charles Dickens Dombey and Son



Venice // Florence // London // Berlin

Copyright © Jeff Cotton 1998-2021
Twenty-three years!