This site is all about how stories add spice to our ideas and feelings about the cities we love. My favourites have long been London, Venice, and Florence and so I made this site, dealing with all sorts of stories set in these three cities. Each city 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 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, cakes, cats, and ice cream. (Fictions feature here too.) You'll find them listed in the handy
Trips Menu

To search within this site using Google, enter your search terms
into the box as usual and then type in

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All suggestions and flattery gratefully received.

In case you're curious, this is Me.

My other sites are...

The Churches of Venice  

The Churches of Florence  

These sites also have their own Facebook page...
The Friends of Fictional Cities
and the Churches of Venice and Florence

Click on the link and Like the page for regular updates.

Festive Greetings!

Was 2017 a worse year, globally speaking, than 2016, or just more of the same? The Trump situation only got worse, certainly, not least for me because every time I read of his latest moronic outburst or action I'd spend the next hour or so humming flipping
Nellie the Elephant
to myself.
You know...
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk
And said goodbye to the circus
Off she went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump.

My big deal of 2017 was my 60th birthday, in March, when I started getting my work pension, free travel in London and cheaper rail journeys outside London. This last benefit didn't quite get me to as many English cathedral cities as I'd hoped, but they'll get visited, have no fear.

Unlike Mr Trump I learned a lot in 2017. My Byzantine and Medieval thing continued, with the Black Death featuring heavily. (Modern scholarship is easing off on the rats and putting the blame now more on gerbils, don't you know.) Trips to Venice, Milan, Bologna and Urbino got the year off to a safely Italian start.  Then, following a marvellous Vermeer exhibition in Dublin in the summer, the Dutch Golden Age got my juices flowing, with an eye-opening Rembrandt etchings exhibition in Norwich, during a course dealing with Bosch and Bruegel, with a trip to Vienna to see the very best works of the latter, and a superior example of the former's work too.

As to what all this wider-horizons stuff means for my websites...well I certainly seem to have been writing more trip reports than reviews of novels set in Venice, but lives and enthusiasms and priorities change, as I'm sure you'll agree. My sites will reflect this, as more cities get their churches explored and less Venetian novels seem original and certain to fascinate.

So I'll sign off with a warm invitation to anyone wishing to share my horizon-broadening in 2018. But if you're happy to stay in Venice I'll see you sometime in 2018 too, no doubt.

Chins up!

My Books of 2017
Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Game
Sylvain Neuvel Waking Gods
David Adams Cleveland Time's Betrayal
I read all the Jeeves and Wooster stories and novels in 2017,
but if you read only one make it...
P.G. Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves
Jennifer Egan Manhattan Beach
Glenn Haybittle The Way Back to Florence
Philip Pullman La Belle Sauvage
Blake Crouch Dark Matter
Ali Smith Winter

My CDs of 2016
Elbow Little Fictions
Dirty Projectors
The New Pornographers Whiteout Conditions
Leslie Mendelson Love & Murder
Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins
UNKLE The Road, Pt. 1
The National Sleep Well Beast

My late-life Early Music obsession mostly bedded in this year - no startling discoveries,
just a continuation of the  lute-love, especially from the 18th century,
and the keenness for Biber's violin sonatas.
Ensemble Violini Capricciosi Biber - Violin Sonatas
John Schneiderman Eighteenth-Century Lute Music
Lutz Kirchhof The Lute in Dance and Dream


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

click on the titles to read all about them


The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that a trip to Siena in November that was planned and announced has disappeared. This was all down to BA cancelling my flight and my not being able to face the queue and faff of finding another flight, or flights. Or maybe it was fate. For by not going to Siena I attended an art lecture I would otherwise have missed, and the lecturer there raving about the Rembrandt Etchings exhibition at the Norwich Castle museum was timely encouragement for me to spend a few days in Norwich, becoming equally smitten by Rembrandt's etching and the city itself. So, I'm going with fate, and making a brief trip report that I'm calling...
Short trips: Norwich

A few years back I read and really liked a novel called The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli. Well, the author has a new one out, called The Painter's Apprentice and I fully intend to read and review it, quite soon. I know - me read a novel set in Venice, it's been a few months. As the plot amusingly appears to involve a guild of gilders I don't see how I can resist.
Padua & Verona

Having just added a film called Le Retour de Casanova to the Venice Films page set me to wondering if it would be useful to make a Casanova Films side page, as they don't all have titles beginning with C. And maybe put the books about him on it too. Which made me wonder what other subjects of novels might deserve their own pages. Filippo Lippi has been the subject of a few novels, I realised, so maybe I could combine them and make a Men Famous for Having Had Sex With Nuns page! Or maybe not.

You know how it goes - an author emails you to offer you a review copy of his new novel, and after months of shenanigans involving publishers dithering over delivery, changing their minds, and other hiccups and hesitations, you finally get a copy. And it's 1165 pages long! And to be ahead of the game you need to read and review it before October, when it's published. I'm sure we've all been there. The book is Time's Betrayal by David Adams Cleveland, and as I loved his two previous novels I'm confident it'll be worth the time and muscle pain. Expect a review, but not soon.


Tomorrow we're off to Dublin. Why Dublin? Well, whilst it's not unfair to accuse me of visiting major European art capitals mostly to feed my obsession with Italian art - that being my main reason for visits to Vienna, Liverpool, Birmingham and even Paris in recent years - in this case the main draw is a big Vermeer exhibition - Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting. This is my first visit, to Ireland and Dublin, so ogling of Georgian architecture and literary pilgrimage spots will probably be indulged in too. And then there's The Book of Kells.

more news here

Vienna Trips

November 2017
Norwich Short trips
Glenn Haybittle The Way Back to Florence
Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron Florence

September & October 2017
Magdalen Nabb Death of a Dutchman Florence
Padua & Verona Trips
David Adams Cleveland Time's Betrayal Venice

August 2017
Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks Sansovino's Venice
Dublin Trips

July 2017
Diana Gisolfi Paolo Veronese and the
Practice of Painting in Late Renaissance Venice

Judith Mackrell The Unfinished Palazzo Venice
Richard Russo Trajectory Venice

May 2017
Timothy Williams The Second Day of the Renaissance
(Commissario Trotti Book 6)
Related Works
Urbino Trips
Roberta Rich A Trial in Venice Venice

March & April 2017
Donna Leon Earthly Remains Venice
Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Game
Bologna Trips

February 2017
James Lovegrove Sherlock Holmes and
the Shadwell Shadows

January 2017
Javier Marķas Venice, an Interior
Venice Trips
Diana Athill A Florence Diary
Benet Brandreth The Spy of Venice A William Shakespeare novel

November & December 2016
Inferno Florence films
Cologne Trips
Episode 21 - Beastly Things Venice - Brunetti TV series
Wray Delaney An Almond for a Parrot London
Martin Cruz Smith The Girl from Venice


Venice // Florence // London // Berlin

Copyright © Jeff Cotton 1998-2017