**Blog Blast** From Venice with Love- Rosanna Ley

I’m delighted to have been invited to take part in this blog blast for ‘From Venice with Love’ by Rosanna Ley.

Praise for the book

Synopsis

The bestselling author of The Lemon Tree Hotel returns with an enchanting new holiday read about family bonds and following your heart, wherever it might take you.

With her marriage in danger of falling apart, Joanna returns home to the beautiful but dilapidated Mulberry Farm Cottage in rural Dorset, where her sister Harriet is struggling to keep the Farm afloat and cope with their eccentric mother.

When Joanna discovers a bundle of love letters in the attic, written by a watercolourist named Emmy, she is intrigued and sets out to discover Emmy’s true story.

Emmy’s letters take Joanna to the picturesque alleyways and bridges of Lisbon, Prague, and the most romantic place of all: Venice – where a whole new magical world seems to unfold in front of her.

Meanwhile, back at Mulberry Farm Cottage, a mysterious prowler adds to Harriet’s problems and interrupts her search for a perfect partner. Will she ever find true love? Where will Emmy’s mesmerising pathway lead? And more importantly, will Joanna and Harriet be able to rescue the cottage and finally be able to re-discover their sisterly bond?

About the Author

Rosanna Ley works as a creative tutor and has written many articles and stories for national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea.

Review

This book had me intrigued from the outset! A tantalising blend of themes which weave naturally into the narrative, this is a tale of family bonds and relationships, love and heartache and explores how history can sometimes repeat itself without you even realising it.

Despite the title, only part of the book is set in Venice. The author takes the reader, and two of the main characters on a journey to the Italian city, Lisbon and Prague as Joanna attempts to uncover the mystery behind the painting which has always hung in her room in Mulberry Farm Cottage.

The rest of the book is centred in the Dorset countryside and author Rosanna Ley does an excellent job of creating a feel for each of the locations with her vivid descriptions. I loved how the Mulberry tree became central to the story as it unfolded too.

While I was able to predict some of the storyline as it developed, the ending came as a delicious revelation! I need to know what happens next now!

With many thanks to the author, Quercus books and Milly Reid for the opportunity to contribute to the book blast.

Venice in Lock-down over Coronavirus Threat

Venice, affectionately nicknamed ‘La Serenissima’ (the most serene), has announced emergency procedures following concerns around an outbreak of Coronavirus.

With the Italian city in the throes of their annual ‘carnevale’, new rules have been imposed which see the celebrations cut short by two days. With confirmed reports of a 3rd death from the virus within the region, the governor of Veneto, Luca Zaia has declared that festivities should be brought to a halt.

Two Venetian patients have tested positive for the virus and are currently in intensive care at the local hospital, resulting in increased precautions within the city.

The north of the country has felt the impact of a breakout, with more than 130 cases reported since last Friday.

As well as the early end to the carnival, Venice and the surrounding area will be subject to stringent restrictions to try to prevent the spread of the virus, with schools and public gatherings forced into a lockdown situation:

“”We have to adopt drastic measures,” Veneto President Zaia told reporters. “As of this evening there will be a ban on the Venice Carnival as well as on all events, sporting as well, until March 1 inclusive,” he said. “All private and public gatherings” must be avoided, Zaia said, adding that all schools will also be closed until the end of the month.

The ban is also thought to extend to a wider Italian circle, with Barcelona players reportedly set to undergo additional checks on arrival at Naples ahead of their Champions League tie on Tuesday.

Any players found to have an elevated temperature and showing any signs of illness will be transported immediately to hospital on arrival.

While the cause of the initial outbreak still remains a mystery, with ‘patient zero’ apparently having no connection to China or having had any contact with anyone from the region, everything necessary is being put in place to stop the disease spreading further.

Further restrictions have also been put in place in Milan, where there will be limited access to the annual Fashion Week.

A Magical Venice Story: The Girl of Glass- Holly Webb

This is the latest offering in the ‘Magical Venice’ series by Holly Webb, although it can be read as a standalone story as its characters are unique to this tale. Marketed at readers aged 9 and upwards, this is a beautiful tale for children and adults alike.

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Mariana lives on the Venetian island of Murano with her glassmaker father, stepmother and sister Eliza, who is seriously ill. While Mariana longs to learn the art of glass making, her father refuses to teach her and instead she spends her time travelling to mainland Venice in search of the ‘perfect potion’ to cure her ailing sister.

A series of events turns the lives of the whole family upside down and Mariana finds herself in charge of protecting a glass doll made in Eliza’s image by her father in an attempt to appease her distraught stepmother. When this plan goes awry, both girls find themselves stationed on the mainland in a palazzo where magic and danger are never far away!

Published on 9th March 2017. With thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Children’s Group for an advanced reading copy.

Daughters of the Silk Road- Debbie Rix

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‘Daughters of the Silk Road’ is a fascinating fictional journey through history; a story of generations linked by a precious family heirloom- a Ming vase. Believed to bring good fortune to its owners, what unfolds over the course of centuries reveals many trials and tribulations as the vase is passed on to descendants and travels the world.

Starting in the present day, the reader is introduced to the vase’s current owner Miranda who has inherited it, along with various other knick-knacks, from her great-aunt. Miranda isn’t especially keen on the object but keeps it out of respect for her relative’s wishes that she should continue the family tradition.

The story then switches to the origins of the vase as the reader is transported back to the 15th century where Italian merchant Niccolo dei Conti is travelling with his family back to Venice, who has been presented with the porcelain as a gift to pass onto the Doge. In fact, dei Conti decides to keep the vase on his return to Venice and charges his daughter with keeping it safe. From this point, the narrative centres around the vase and the lives of its various owners over the years, before returning to the present to discover whether or not it truly does bring fortune to those who possess it.

As a lover of Venice, the early section of the book centred on the dei Conti family was the most appealing. Vivid descriptions of the city and its customs, coupled with historical accuracy about the surrounding islands and the threat of the plague made for compelling reading.

The author has done a wonderful job of mixing fact with fiction, including many characters throughout who actually existed and blending in seamlessly to the narrative those she has invented to add further substance to the story.

Whilst the sections of the story set in the present don’t hold quite as much intrigue, they are an essential part of the overall plot in the end.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this will definitely appeal!

The Waters of Eternal Youth- Donna Leon

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The Waters of Eternal Youth is the 25th offering from author Donna Leon in her Commissario Brunetti series and is every bit as well written as the first. Set, as always, in the beautiful city of Venice, this novel opens with Guido out of his comfort zone at a dinner party, where he is asked to reinvestigate a case from fifteen years earlier.

Manuela, the granddaughter of Venetian countess (and coincidently a friend of his mother-in-law), who had a morbid fear of water, was apparently pushed into the canal and suffered irreparable brain damage. A local, well known drunk claimed at the time to have seen someone push her in , but this was never fully investigated.

Brunetti finds himself almost inexplicably drawn to the case and as the facts are uncovered, further mysteries evolve.

As ever, this is as much a crime novel as it is a perfect depiction of Venice; a city steeped in tradition and history, yet subject to political unrest and at threat from an influx of day-tripper tourists who bring much needed revenue but who threaten the livelihood of Venetians who find themselves increasingly forced to leave their island home in search of a more financially viable place to live.

Leon understands Venice perfectly and weaves its history and special allure seamlessly into her novels. Brunetti is a perfect ambassador for the city; seeing both its splendid qualities but equally being acutely aware of the peril facing its future.

The family anecdotes: the mealtime discussions that are so easily relatable and the relationship between Brunetti, his fiery wife Paola and their children bring an element of normality amidst the criminal investigation and give the reader a clearer sense of what everyday life is like for Venetians.

This is not an intense crime novel, but rather a glorious mixture of everyday life and intrigue set against one of the most beautiful and evocative cities in the world. A thoroughly enjoyable read!

The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story- Megan Chance

Set in the 1800s, this is a tale of a young woman sent to the island to care for and treat a man suffering from epilepsy and residing at a crumbling palazzo belonging to the family of one of his closest friends. Elena is desperate to make amends to her own family for a past indiscretion which reveals itself as the story progresses and Samuel’s family are paying a considerable amount of money for their son to be cured ahead of his impending marriage.

Ca’Basilio, where most of the story takes place, is in a state of ruin and the owner Madame Basilio is still bereft with grief following the death of her daughter, who is believed to have taken her own life by falling from a balcony into one of the nearby canals. But there are greater secrets to unfold as Elena begins to sense the presence of a spirit within the palazzo, esepcially when Samuel appears to be suffering from a seizure.

The plot thickens when Samuel’s close friend and the former lover of Madame Basilio’s daughter arrives at the palace and Elena finds herself falling for his charms.

While much of the novel is not specifically about Venice, the few references that are made add to the mysterious atmosphere and the plot has enough intrigue, romance and treachery to keep the reader hooked and guessing right until the end.

One Summer in Venice- Nicky Pellegrino

The story begins in the UK and is centred around the main character Addolorata’s search for happiness as she struggles with the routine of her daily life and the increasing distance between herself, her husband Eden and her daughter Katia. Following a suggestion from her sister that a short break away will help her re-evaluate her priorities, she finds herself alone in Venice.

Captured under the spell of the city and with a little persuasion from the slightly eccentric Coco who she meets one day in the streets of Venice, she decides to stay for the summer and begins to compile a list of the the things that make her happy, searching for the simple things in life that put a smile on her face.

Just as Addolorata is bewitched by the beauty and simplicity of Venice, the reader is similarly drawn into the story. While there are obvious references to some of Venice’s most recognised attractions, the author relies more on descriptions of everyday scenes and the lives of locals which adds to the overall appeal as you realise this story could easily apply to anyone, anywhere. The encounters with other characters add real flavour and help to shape Addolorata’s thinking as she questions whether she wants the life she had or the life she now finds herself living, albeit only for the summer.

The theme of food throughout neatly weaves together her life in the UK and Venice and the description of typical Venetian dishes adds mouth-watering authenticity. Similarly, music and, in particular, the tango, is another tool used effectively by the author to mark a contrast between the things Addolorata perceives to be the widely accepted notions of what brings happiness and those she allows herself to recognise as she becomes more comfortable with herself and her surroundings.

The end of the novel serves to provide an overall sense of perspective as a sudden change in circumstances forces Addolorata to change her focus again and all of the threads of the story become interwoven once more.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and one where, as a reader, you find yourself not only empathising with the main character, but maybe even evaluating your own outlook on life too.

Venice in the Moonlight- Elizabeth McKenna

As a lover of Venice, this book captured my interest from the outset. The fact it was set in the 18th century during Carnevale only added to the allure and by weaving in historical characters so closely linked with the city in Foscari and Casanova, there was both a real sense of magic and history in the tale.

The only thing preventing a five star rating was that I found the idea of Marietta’s night-time excursions into the homes of some of the wealthiest men in Venice slightly implausible, although I acknowledge that this did add to the intrigue of the story.

The other main theme, that of her encounters with Nico, I found completely compelling. The way the two themes interlinked as the story progressed added to the suspense and enjoyment and for once in tales like this, the ending did not prove a disappointment.

A thoroughly enjoyable read!

In search of St Mark’s Winged Lion

Venice is one of those cities that, once it has entered your heart,  never leaves it. A truly magical place full of history, power and intrigue and one that offers far more than meets the eye to those prepared to wander off the well-beaten tourist track.

The poet Robert Browning, once quoted as saying “Open my heart and you will see engraved inside of it, Italy”, grew to love the city in his later years and died in the vast Palazzo Ca’ Rezzonico in 1889. A plaque on the wall outside pays homage to his time there:

A plaque on the wall of the  Ca' Rezzonico dedicated to Robert Browning

A plaque on the wall of the Ca’ Rezzonico dedicated to Robert Browning

Yet perhaps the greatest and most enduring symbol of Venice is that of its winged lion and St. Mark.

The winged lion is often portrayed with an open book, bearing the Latin script ‘Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus’, meaning ‘Peace to You, Mark my Evangelist’, which tradition dictates were the words spoken by an angel to Mark after he became lost after being shipwrecked in the lagoon before resting in Venice.

The image of the lion became a symbol to represent strength and power and can still be seen on the flag of Venice today. Naturally then, it is depicted in various guises all over the city.

In my most recent visit, almost subconsciously, it became something of a mission to see how many incarnations I could capture on camera. I’m sure there are still many more awaiting discovery!

The lion of Venice on the Eastern column in Piazza San Marco

The lion of Venice on the Eastern column in Piazza San Marco

A winged lion on a statue dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II

A winged lion on a statue dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II

Monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi erected in 1885 in the Giardini

Monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi erected in 1885 in the Giardini

Plaque commemorating Giovanni Caboto, who is thought to have discovered North America

Plaque commemorating Giovanni Caboto, who is thought to have discovered North America

Naval History Museum

Naval History Museum

Campanile, Piazza San Marco

Campanile, Piazza San Marco

Palazzo Ducale, Venezia

St Mark’s Basilica, Venezia

St Mark's Basilica, Piazza San Marco

St Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco

St Mark's Basilica

St Mark’s Basilica

Torre dell' Orologio, Piazza San Marco

Torre dell’ Orologio, Piazza San Marco

Palazzo Ducale column

Palazzo Ducale column

Palazzo Ducale

Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

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Casa Ai Due Leoni, Cannaregio

Casa Ai Due Leoni, Cannaregio

Teatro Italia

Teatro Italia

Arsenale

Arsenale

Arsenale

Arsenale

In memory of Piero Foscari

In memory of Piero Foscari

This winged lion ,looks towards the home of Daniele Manin's home. Campo Manin, Venezia

This winged lion looks towards the home of Daniele Manin’s home. Campo Manin, Venezia

Brunetti’s Venice: Walks Through the Novels- Toni Sepeda

Undoubtedly one of the best features of Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunnetti novels is the authenticity of the Venice portrayed through the eyes of the Commissario.

In this book, we are treated to a series of walking tours which follow in the footsteps of the much-loved Guido Brunetti.

Each tour covers an area (or sestiere) of Venice and, alongside quotes from novels, takes the reader on a journey of discovery which uncovers the true heart of Venice.

The beauty of this book is the way in which it takes you to places in this beautiful city which you might otherwise never stumble across. Although the links to the novels dominate, there is nevertheless a concerted effort to draw the reader’s attention to little quirks and historical facts, along with the odd recommendation for a decent bakery or restaurant.

Forget your usual destination guide. For an insight into the real Venice, this is the only travel companion you will need.