Sometimes, in a romance, the setting is as much of a character as the hero and heroine. And that’s why this week I’m not looking at a romantic film, as such – I’m looking at a series that charts the history of a city that’s just full of romance and amazing stories.
OK, confession time. I’m going there in April. Actually, it’ll be the very first time I’ve visited La Serenissima. Sono molto eccitata per il viaggio. (So excited, as you can tell, that I’m brushing up my rusty Italian – and teaching my daughter bits too.)
Naturally this means that I’m reading a lot of books about the city… and watching a certain DVD, i.e. Francesco’s Venice – the subject of my post today.
Count Francesco da Mosto’s family has lived in Venice for hundreds and hundreds of years, and he knows his native city’s history well. I love his presentation – he’s an expert on architecture (one of my big passions) and showcases the city beautifully, from the faded grandeur of some of its palazzi through to the glories of its churches (I cannot wait to see the horses and the stone carvings in St Mark’s).
It’s divided into four parts – Blood, Beauty, Sex and Death.
Blood tells us how the city was founded, how the Doges were elected, and how St Mark’s body was stolen and brought to the city to fulfil a prophecy. And then there’s the story of Doge Enrico Dandolo, who deflected a crusade in 1202 to get revenge on his trading rivals in Constantinople (mind you, they had blinded him, so you can understand why he was upset with them) and to expand the Venetian empire. I was fascinated to learn that even though Venice was almost on its knees (thanks to Constantinople), the citizens all pooled their wealth to build the huge square of the Piazza San Marco in defiance.
Beauty tells how the city grew in wealth after the plunder of Constantinople, and how the architectural style became a fusion between Gothic and the East. And then, after the fire of 1514, there was much rebuilding (cue Palladio). And then there was the flowering of art, with Titian and Veronese… brought to a halt by the plague of 1575.
Sex shows how Venice became the pleasure capital of Europe. Casanova got about a bit (!); architecture became Baroque; Vivaldi composed an awful lot of tunes (to sell the dedications to rich patrons – and I love his cello concerti); and Canaletto painted. There’s the Bridge of Sighs, the Ridotto and San Barnaba… and then Napoleon sacked the city, deposed the Doge and the Republic was overthrown.
Death brings us up to date. Tourism – Byron, Dickens, Turner and Ruskin romanticised the city, and arguments started about modernisation versus restoration.
And in between there are the stories. The duels, the lovers, the Doges, the thieves, revenge. (Francesco tells them so well that I’m going to be forced to buy his cookbook, because I bet it’s going to be as fab a read as Locatelli’s.)
Rich, rich pickings for a romantic novelist. (And Francesco has the most gorgeous voice. Almost as nice as that of Mr Banderas, which is something coming from me!)
Watching the DVD is a real inspiration. And I can’t wait to go and explore the city for myself!
In the UK, Kate’s latest book, Good Girl or Gold Digger?, is just about to hit the shelves. You can still get Falling for the Playboy Millionaire from the Mills and Boon website in Australia; and Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is still available in the US. You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/)