This is not a site about imaginary cities, it's a site about how our reading affects our ideas of real cities and then mixes with
our memories to create our mental maps. We all have
places we love, and like to read novels and watch
films about them. I love London, Venice, and
 Florence and so I made this site, dealing
 with all sorts of stories set in
these three cities.

Each city now has a few indulgent side pages too. These deal with subjects like Venice's cats, London's cakes, and Lost Florence.
I've also been writing trip reports as a service to travellers
who share my enthusiasm for cities, cakes, ice cream
and art. You'll find them listed on the handy
Trips Menu.

Click here to send me an e-mail
All suggestions and flattery gratefully received.


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The Churches of Venice  
The Churches of Florence  

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click on the word NEWS
above for more news (with photos!)

So many big-name novels coming out this autumn! Just sticking to the ones I'm looking forward to the list is long - Haruki Murakami, Sarah Waters, Ali Smith, David Mitchell, Jeff Vandermeer, Colm Tóibín, Michel Faber, William Gibson and Peter Carey. None have plotly connections with this site, except maybe for the Ali Smith, the blurb for which says that it's half about a renaissance artist of the 1460s and is written in a way imitating the technique of fresco-painting, whatever that may mean.

I've only just discovered The Fat Woodcarver, quite a famous short story written in the 15th Century by Antonio Manetti, which recounts the, evidently true, story of a practical joke played on a woodcarver called Grasso by a bunch of his mates, led by Brunelleschi and Donatello. They conspire to make him doubt his own identity, basically, by pretending that he's someone else, even getting him locked in jail as his alter-ego. Brunelleschi even manages to get inside Grasso's house and shout out to him to go away in an impersonation of his voice. It's more cruel than funny, as the woodcarver starts to doubt his sanity, but thereby shows what passed for humour in renaissance Florence. More when I've read it. Also it's at once perplexing and heartening that such a strange and tempting book should've passed me by all these years.

Blimey now there's another reviewable, which looked like a tempting prospect even before I discovered that it's set in Florence - In Love and War
by Alex Preston. And I've just discovered The Monster of Florence, a 1986 Italian filming of the story of the famous (and somewhat over-exposed) serial killer, but it does not come any higher than politely recommended. There's been talk of a Hollywood version of journalists Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi's investigations for a while, with George Clooney said to have signed up to play Preston in 2011, but no news since then. Maybe the serial killer thing has run its course.

After a slow beginning to the year June and July have seen a fair old flurry of reviewables. Also I've been clearing the decks a bit for the rush of new classy fiction I mentioned below. But the deck-clearing hasn't extended to The Serpent of Venice, the humourous novel featuring the sexually deviant monkey called Jeff. I started it but it disappointingly did not appeal. It had a flavour of the Terry Pratchetts about it, but this flavour was strongly overpowered by the excessive and blokeish bandying of words like fuck and twat at too many opportunities. Some words need rationing, I think, to remain effective.

Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) has been both a highlight in my recent film-watching and an inspiration for me to broaden my listening by following up the new classical composers featured on its fine soundtrack. I even liked his previous film This Must Be the Place, the one where Sean Penn looks like Robert Smith from The Cure and plays a rock star in search of something or other. So you can imagine my joy at learning that he's been filming his new one in Venice. Youth tells the story of two old geezers Fred and Mick (played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel) one a director and the other a conductor, who decide to go on a holiday together. It supposedly deals with Sorrentino's trademark concerns - ageing, art and desire. Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda are also in it, and it's due to be released in the spring of 2015.

more news here

Lauro Martines An Italian Renaissance Sextet:
Six Tales in Historical Context
Architectural Guide - Venice Buildings and Projects After 1950
Alex Preston In Love and War
July 2014
The Image of Venice: Fialetti's View & Sir Henry Wotton Venice
Georges Rodenbach Bruges-la-Morte
Christobel Kent The Killing Room
Laura Morelli The Gondola Maker
Graham McKenzie A Florentine Influence Florence
Terence Morgan The Master of Bruges
June 2014
Giulia Foscari Elements of Venice Venice
Heather Redding  Stealing Venice
Antonia Hodgson The Devil in the Marshalsea London
Philip Kazan Appetite Florence
Marco Vichi Death in Florence Florence
La Venexiana Venice films
Donna Leon By its Cover Venice
March 2014
Richard Skinner The Mirror Venice
February 2014
Doctor Who - The Vampires of Venice Venice TV
January 2014
Thomas Coryate Most Glorious & Peerless Venice
Donna Leon My Venice and other essays
December 2013
Light in the Piazza Florence films
Tony Ballantyne Dream London London
Lucy Hughes-Hallett The Pike Venice
McCann Ace, King, Knave London
November 2013
Elizabeth Spencer The Light in the Piazza Florence
Roberta Rich The Harem Midwife Related works
Christopher Jones White Phantom City Venice
September 2013
Tom Brown Strange Air London
Venetian bird Venice films
Ellis Peters Holiday with Violence Venice
August 2013
Tinney Sue Heath A Thing Done Florence
Christopher Fowler Full Dark House
(Bryant & May Book 1)
The Redhead (Die Rote) Venice films
Miranda Miller The Fairy Visions of Richard Dadd London
Ben Aaronovitch Broken Homes

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Venice // Florence // London // Berlin

Copyright © Jeff Cotton 1998-2014