This site is all about how stories add spice to our ideas and feelings about the cities we love. Often we only know cities through stories. 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 some indulgent side pages too. These deal with the likes of The Cats of Venice
, London 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.
Novels and stories feature here too.
You'll find the trips listed on the handy
Trips Menu

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I cancelled the Cardiff trip mentioned below, as it was looking like being too wet and wintry a time, and as I type this at the end of the week I should have been away, it's been a week of constant rain, with Storm CiarŠn sweeping Europe.

In better news, having found a 5th great-grandfather who was a saddler in Smithfield, called Adam Greenlaw Gray, who lived near St Bartholomewís church (my new London fave Ė itís so Romanesque inside!) and who was married and had his children christened there, I discovered that his wife, Elizabeth Faraday, was the sister of Michael Faraday! So Michael Faraday's dad is my 6th great-grandfather.

My assertion in my last post that I'd had my last trip of the year is looking premature. I recently found that an ancestor of my dad's mum, called Jabez Phillips, was born in Bassaleg, in Wales near Newport, and in 1779 got married in Michaelston-y-Fedw, also not far from Newport, and now basically a suburb of Cardiff. So I've booked a week in Cardiff later this month, with a cathedral I missed last time and a tempting cemetery adding to the appeal. And then there's the shops selling fresh-baked Welsh Cakes. Then I read about an rather large exhibition of 16th-century Venetian art in Munich over the winter so we've booked a week there in December. Christmas markets providing the extra appeal this time. I do realise how lucky I am BTW.

The Venetian Terraferma trip was a very good one, but looks like being my last of the year. Patrizia, the tour manager on the trip, an old friend who is also the wife of a good friend of these pages, has set me to thinking by recommending a stay in Venice of a month to really get to know the place. This idea is now getting seriously pondered. In Italian this is known as 'putting a flea in my ear' it seems. Also there's a new, surprise, Donna Leon book of reminiscences, which consists of a sequence of short chapters, we're told, and so sounds like another of those large-font, wide-line-spacing , blank-page-infected jobbies, but I'll let you know. I had my Covid vaccine booster a couple of days ago too, and so far I'm not suffering the pains which began the day after my jab last year and invalided be off of a Lucca tour. It was the Pfizer vaccine, though, like the others I've had, and not the Moderna from a year ago. Who knows?

August was a bit dingy and uninspiring but then came the hottest week in September ever, or something, which has now cooled down a bit, but tomorrow Iím off to the Venetian Terraferma for a few days, where itís going to be as hot as it was last week in Tooting. Cunning.
When I get back Iím booked for my Covid booster. I toyed with not getting it, after my suspicious immediate intense calf pain last year. But as it can be argued that a booster should be the right of everyone, and not just us oldies, it comes as a twofer with the flu jab, and that refusing it sides you with mad anti-vaxxers and varieties of anti-ULEZ loonies Iíve signed up.

Being half way through the summer slump - no trips to Italy until the weather cools off, and nothing much getting published - the yen to book a trip or two is strong. I was prompted to book a week's guided tour of the Venetian Terraferma for a pretty prosaic reason, but also because I've never been to Vicenza, I fancy a revisit of the Scrovegni Chapel, and I've never even heard of the Prealps! The latter includes a visit to Castelfranco to see Giorgione's altarpiece, which is one of the few of his works I've never seen.
I had already booked a week in Paris for the week of the Vicenza trip, so that's now got shifted to late October, made painless by Eurostar now secretly allowing you to move your journey without paying a penalty. I intend to have a look at the refreshed Cluny Museum, take the train to Chartres, and visit several cemeteries.

And suddenly there's a new novel by David Hewson in prospect. It's out on the 1st of August and it's called The Borgia Portrait. It's the second in his period-spanning series featuring  reluctant detective and ex-archivist, Donald Clover. The first one The Medici Murders managed to squeeze into the plot, aside from many Medici, the Saint Ursula cycle, Veronica Franco, prostitution, the Ponte delle Tette, the run-down Lido, the Danieli, and Casanova. What, no Vivaldi?! The new one revolves around a murdered contessa and an erotic portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, and again features Casanova, via a crucial document telling of one of his adventures.

old news here

November 2023
Carlo Fruttero & Franco Lucentini The Lover of no  Fixed Abode  Venice
A Haunting in Venice Venice films

October 2023
Martin Gayford Venice: City of Pictures
Lee Jackson Dickensland

September 2023
Donna Leon A Wandering Through Life Venice
The Venetian

August 2023
David Hewsom The Borgia Portrait Venice

June and July 2023

Philip Gwynne Jones The Venetian Candidate Venice
Churches of Suffolk
Lucca and Pisa

April & May 2023

Verona & Venice Trips

March 2023

Medieval Champagne
Donna Leon So Shall You Reap Venice

February 2023
The Victorian London Grime Glut:
Philip Davies London: The Great Transformation 1860Ė1920
Judith Flanders Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London

Lee Jackson Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth
Sarah Wise The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum

Cathy Ross Bollardology

October 2022
Alana White The Hearts of All on Fire Florence
Damian Dibben The Colour Storm Venice
David Hewson The Medici Murders Venice

September 2022
Parma and Modena Trips
Robert Harris Act of Oblivion London
Maggie O'Farrell The Marriage Portrait Florence
Norwich Trips



Venice // Florence // London // Berlin

Copyright © Jeff Cotton 1998-2023
25 years of reading and travelling