10 Things You Absolutely Must Do When You Are In Florence

Florence is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world. It doesn’t matter how many times I go to Florence, I always discover something new. I never get bored with Florence, and I never feel like I’m done. Florence is magic.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in Florence over the past 10 years. I’ve been to the all the main tourist spots (multiple times!) but I have also explored the city from one end to the other. Along the way I have discovered some wonderful secrets in the city on the Arno.

Most tourists miss out on some of the most amazing things to do in Florence, so I have made you a list of 10 items that you need to add to your travel itinerary.

I am always asked about my favorite restaurants and shops in Florence, so I have added an option for you to get a PDF of my Secret Florence at the end of this post.

 

David-Palazzo-Vecchio

Here are 10 things that you absolutely MUST  do when you are in Florence:

 

Florence-Arno

 

1. Go For An Early Walk.

Get up early (at least once while you are there) and go for a long walk.

Florence gets so packed with tourists during the day and into the night that it becomes almost impossible to get one on one time with her statues, her famous doorways, the great piazzas. During the day you can hardly ever snap a photo without other travelers getting in the way.

But in the early mornings the streets are empty, and she is all yours.

Read more about it here

 

2. Eat Cinghiale

One of the local Tuscan delicacies is Cinghiale, or wild boar.

Every restaurant serves it, made to their own recipe, and it’s fantastic.

Florence-pasta

RELATED POST: TUSCANY BY TRAIN, 10 FABULOUS DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE 

3. Visit Santa Croce Church

Florence is full of amazing churches with amazing art, but to me Santa Croce is one of the most spectacular.

 

Santa-Croce-Church
Santa Croce Church in the shadow of the early morning

 

The art inside Santa Croce is considered to be some of the most impressive church art in all of Florence. From Giotto’s fresco cycles to Cimabue’s breathtaking Triumphal Cross, the art in Santa Croce is spectacular.
It is also the home to Florence’s most impressive tombs, and has memorials to Michelangelo, Rossini, Dante Aligheri, Ghiberti, Galileo and Machiavelli. Largely overlooked by tourists, the church at Santa Croce is an absolute must.

4. Get Up High

 

Florence
The Duomo seen from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio on a misty, moody December afternoon

Whether you choose to climb the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo, or perhaps the vastly fewer stairs to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio tower, get up high and take in the mesmerizing view of one of Europe’s most magnificent cities.

RELATED POST: THE BEST PLACES TO WATCH SUNSET IN FLORENCE

5. Take Long Walks At Night.

Just as early morning walks are a must in Florence, so are long evening walks after the sun has gone down.

One of the great loves of my life lives in Florence, ( if you are going to fall in love, it might as well be with an Italian, right?) and for many years evenings in Florence were synonymous with long strolls around the city, taking in all the incredible palazzi and churches, the magnificent doorways, the statues, the very essence of Florence, bathed in the moonlight.icon

Santa-Maria-Del-Fiore-Night

As beautiful as she is by day, Santa Maria Del Fiore (the Duomo) is just mesmerizing by night. In fact Florence is pure magic by night.

 

Santa-Maria-Del-Fiore-Night

6. Look Up

While taking night time strolls you have the opportunity to see frescos and incredible ceilings hidden to you during the day, but visible by night when people turn their lights on. When we would be out at night (and still even now, as the dearest of friends) he always tells me “Look up!” as we walk by breathtaking frescoes on the upper floors of the various palazzi, scattered everywhere in the city.

RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN SAN GIMIGNANO

7. Take A Tour Of Somewhere Special

 

Florence-Piazza-Della-Signoria

When I was in Florence this past December I was incredibly lucky to have a private tour of the secret passages and hidden rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio. It was so awe-inspiring that I immediately promised myself that every time I go back to Florence I will take a little tour of some place special. This medieval city is so full of hidden corridors and passageways, there is art up in the rafters, there is art inside the walls. It’s rich history of intrigue and treachery and treasures means there are endlessly fascinating secrets to be discovered. The perfect way to experience them is with an art historian filling you in on all the stories, bringing them to life for you.

 

8. Eat The Best Sandwich Of Your Life

foccaccia-florence

A couple of blocks from the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi on the Via Dei Neri you will find Osteria All’ Antico Vinaio

It is super easy to find because they have a trattoria on either side of the road, and until late each night there are always locals spilling out onto the sidewalk with giant focaccia sandwiches in one hand and big glasses of lusty red wine in the other, while their brethren queue patiently in lines that weave down the street,  waiting for as long as it takes to get their turn at the counter. I guarantee you will never have had a sandwich quite like these before!

You can custom order, but I learned from the people waiting with me in the line and the others having spasms or gastronomic delight as they leaned against the walls or sat on the curb eating their panini, that the way to tackle this beast was to order from the posted list of favorites. (90% of the patrons were all ordering the same thing, so I figured I would just have what they did. Perhaps one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.)

This is no nitrite, no nitrate, no Monsanto, fresh, local, real food.

You won’t find anything as crass as a soda fountain here but you will find a selection of local red wines that they sell by the bottle or by the glass.

And just how much do you think the best sandwich of your life will cost you? €5. It’s the bargain of the century!

Booking.com9. Explore Oltrarno

Literally “the other side of the Arno”, there is so much to see when you cross the river. You have the big sights, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, Piazzale Michelangelo and San Spirito with its Brunelleschi designed interior, but you also have endless medieval streets full of antique stores and local artisans. As you wander through you’ll find fewer and fewer tourists, which means the price of everything goes down. It’s easy to spend days on end losing yourself in Florence’s neighborhoods – there is so much to discover.

While wandering find your way to Santa Maria Del Carmine. The Cappella Brancacci houses a renaissance fresco cycle that changed the course of western art. Begun by Masaccio and Masolino in around 1424 and finished 50 years later by Filippino Lippi, this cycle uses a then revolutionary technique employing single point perspective. Look to the upper left entrance pier to Adam and Eve and notice the dramatic way their bodies reflect a light that seems to emanate from within the world of the painting, but outside the frame. It is magnificent.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

10. Buy Leather

Florence is world famous for it’s amazing leather goods.

If you are not shopping at the Gucci and Prada price point, then this is the city for you! You can buy beautifully made leather bags, belts, luggage, wallets and jackets all over Florence, especially at the San Lorenzo market, but you have to either know what you’re buying, or who you are buying it from to make sure you are getting good quality and not a Made-In-China rip off.

For years and years now I have been buying leather goods from my very dear friend Jimmy Ahmed of Jimmy’s Leather Collection. I’ve sent so many people to Jimmy over the years, and everyone is always super happy to have gone there. Read more about buying leather in Florence here

 

Bonus

I’m giving you a bonus tip, because I can’t refine it down to just 10 tips…

Eat Panforte

 

Panforte-Mandorlata
Panforte with coffee makes for a perfect mid-morning snack

This is actually a Sienese delicacy but you can find it all over Florence. Not a bread, and yet not quite a cake panforte is a divine flourless combination of nuts, dried fruits, honey and spices. My favorite type is Mandorlata. You do so much walking all day every day in Florence, it’s easy to justify a small slice with your morning cappuccino.

Secret Florence

If you would like to know my favorite restaurants, rooftop bars, a secret jeweler who designs for Dior but who also sells to regular ladies in the know at sensible prices, even a Medici perfumer, I have a Secret Florence PDF that you can download and print.

Get your Secret Florence PDF HERE


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14 Top Foods In Tuscany You Need To Know About

Are you planning a trip to Tuscany, or maybe just dreaming about one? Any trip to Italy is defined by the food you eat while there. Food (along with wine) is at the heart of Italian culture. Italian life and history all begins at the dinner table, so to understand this magnificent country you need to understand the cuisine.

fresh cheeses and prosciutto at the local market in San Gimignano, Tuscany
Market Day in San Gimignano, Tuscany

First it is important to understand that food here is entirely regional. It is not like “Italian Food” in America, which is typically made up of heavy pasta dishes drowned in cheese and sugary tomato sauce, and doesn’t vary much no matter where you are.

One thing I have learned from years of private tour guiding is that many travelers expect to find lasagna, fettucine alfredo, baked ziti and foods like that everywhere we go. Fettucine alfredo is American, not Italian. Lasagna, although readily available at tourist restaurants is not a national food, and I have never seen baked ziti anywhere in Italy!

My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) has an entire section on foods and wines by region, and tells you what to order, where. The food is vastly different in Florence and Rome for example, and you don’t want to miss out on an incredible local dish because no one told you! My new book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome tells you all about what to order in the Eternal City, and goes into much more depth.

If you are heading to Tuscany (ever) you need to know about the cuisine and what you absolutely must try while you are there. Tuscan cuisine is one of my personal favorites. Known as cucina povera, (poor people’s food), Tuscan food is locally sourced (nostrale or ours) tends to be quite simple with few ingredients. It started as a cuisine forced by economy or poverty but has remained that way by choice.

The Top 14 Tuscan Foods You Need To Know

I spend a great deal of time in Tuscany and just love the food there! You see provincial differences as you travel across the region but the following foods tend to be available in most areas and are definitely worth seeking out. Lets start with cheeses:

1. Pecorino

Pecorino cheese from Pienza in Tuscany
Pecorino cheese from Pienza

Every local market will have vendors selling slices of pecorino from giant wheels. It is fantastic on its own or drizzled with a little local honey. I also love the piquant pecorino with peppers or chilis, and the pecorino tartufo flavored with local truffles.

2. Ricotta

One of my friends serves this every time I come for dinner. Don’t confuse Tuscan ricotta with the stuff you buy here at the supermarket – that’s like comparing a beat up ’81 Fiat Panda with a tricked out brand new Ferrari. The 2 ricottas share a name only.

You can find fresh Tuscan ricotta at local markets as well as on the menu in many restaurants. Ideally you want fresh ricotta from the farm. It almost looks like a cake or a jello mold, and you slice it and drizzle fresh local honey over it. Sometimes it is sprinkled with nuts. You will be hooked at first bite – it is unbelievably good!

RELATED POST: TUSCANY BY TRAIN – THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE

Soups

One of the reasons I just love being in Tuscany in the winter or early spring/late fall is because of their hearty soups. Even in the summer if we get an overcast or rainy day I always find my way to a bowl of Tuscan soup. Both the soups below are very traditional and in my opinion can also be filed under Tuscan comfort foods.

3. Pappa al Pomodoro

pappa al pomodoro soup is a tuscan specialty
Pappa al Pomodoro soup

You can’t get more cucina povera than this soup! Yesterday’s leftover oven baked bread, olive oil, garlic, basil and tomatoes. Sometimes it has more of a mush than soup consistency, but however it comes it is incredible.

4. Ribollita

ribollita soup at eataly
Tuscan Ribollita soup at Eataly

This is another peasant soup that will fill you up and warm your soul. This time yesterday’s leftover oven baked Tuscan bread is mixed with cannellini beans and vegetables.

5. Fagioli con Salsiccia

Tuscan fagioli con salsiccia - a must have tuscan food
Fagioli con Salsiccia

This is a soup made of beans and sausage, normally a local spicy sausage.

6. Breads

Every area within Tuscany has its own breads, and really, you should try as many as you can! Before you panic about gluten and swelling up from eating carbs – don’t worry it’s all good! Unlike here in the U.S. wheat in Italy is uncompromised. They don’t have Monsanto filling the wheat with pesticides and they don’t have GMO’s, so even the most sensitive digestive systems seem to do just fine. Personally, I can’t eat bread in the USA, I swell up, get an upset tummy and feel like hell. In Italy I can eat it every day with no problems.

I love buying breads at local markets to take home to my apartment, but if you’re not doing the vacation rental thing at least make sure you always at least try the bread in restaurants.

7. Panzanella

Before we leave breads behind you need to know about this bread salad. Once again it uses yesterday’s bread, this time soaked in olive oil, mixed with fresh tomatoes and basil and dressed in olive oil with maybe a little vinegar. I’ve had it with olives in there too – I think it varies depending on where you go. Sometimes when lunching at friends’ homes they have served up variations on the traditional panzanella with sliced red onion, cucumber and lettuce. However it is served, it’s fantastic!

panzanella is a tuscan salad made with bread, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil
Panzanella salad
RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO IN LUCCA

Pasta

Each area of Italy has its own types of pasta. The size and shape of any given pasta is based on the type of sauce it is served with. One traditionally Tuscan pasta that you will find on almost every restaurant menu is pappardelle. This is a wide, ribbon type pasta, served with heavier meat sauces.

Tagliatelle is another local pasta seen on menus everywhere. Also found all over neighboring Emilia-Romagna, tagliatelle is a narrower ribbon than pappardelle.

8. Pappardelle con Cinghiale

the king of tuscan pastas, pappardelle con cinghiale. This is a wild boar sauce served with flat ribbon pasta
Pappardelle al Cinghiale

This is the king of pastas in Tuscany! Cinghiale is wild boar, the taxidermied versions of which you see everywhere. Don’t panic – it doesn’t taste gamey, it’s just incredibly hearty. Every restaurant has its own recipe and way of preparing its cinghiale, so you can have it every day (as my son has done) and never have it quite the same way twice. This is really, really good, and if I were to recommend only one traditional Tuscan food for you to try, Cinghiale would be it.

9. Tagliatelle con Tartufo

Tuscany is truffle country, so when truffles are in season you will find this dish everywhere. Again, each restaurant seems to have their own recipe, so you can eat it everywhere you go and it will always be different, but also will always be super good.

tagliatelle al tartufo i a must eat food from Tuscany.
Tagliatelle con Tartufo

About pastas: I’ve seen cinghiale served with either pappardelle or tagliatelle, so it may also be a restaurant’s personal preference.

Italians typically eat multiple courses, way more than I can handle. If I am ordering pasta I normally don’t order anything else. That bowl alone will fill you. Also, if planning on ordering pasta I exercise extreme caution with the antipasti when it comes out – it is so easy to fill up snacking on meats and cheeses and olives!

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

10. Bistecca Fiorentina

bistecca fiorentina, tuscany's steak from Chiana Valley
Bistecca Fiorentina

You will see giant steaks in restaurant windows all over Florence and nearby town. These are the famous steaks from the Chiana Valley. Each one is 3 to 4 lbs on its own – they really are enormous! So big in fact that they not only cook them front and back but also on the sides. If you are a meat eater this is a must try food.

11. Cacciuccio

This is a Tuscan fish stew, and you are more likely to find it closer to the coast, especially around Livorno. Traditionally it has 5 different types of seafood, from fish to shellfish, one for each C in the name. Fishermen would clean out their boat at the end of market day, and whatever was left in the bottom would be thrown into Cacciucco. The stew would have broth, garlic, pepper flakes and red wine vinegar and would be served over toasted bread.

cacciuccio seafood stew from Livorno Italy
Cacciuccio from Livorno

To this day it is served the same way, the bread soaking up the broth. If you love seafood, this one is amazing.

12. Tuscan Pizza

Pizza is different everywhere you go in Italy, from the chewy base in Napoli to Rome’s super thin crust to Tuscany’s not-quite-as-thin crust. Always cooked in a wood burning oven, you have to try pizza in Tuscany at least once. This could not be more different to typical American pizza. Not drowned in sugary tomato sauces, and not weighed down by heavy melted cheese, Tuscan pizzas tend to be fresh and light.

pizza in tuscany
Tuscan pizza

Don’t expect American pepperoni – pepperoni in Italian means giant bell peppers. Don’t be surprised to see raw rocket (arugula) scattered across the top of a pizza. It tastes so amazing!

Most of the time you won’t find pizza served at lunchtime. Pizza is prepared in wood burning domed ovens that take hours to heat up to the correct temperature of 485 Celcius/905 Fahrenheit. When thinking about having pizza plan it for no earlier than 8:30 at night, and ideally at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.

My favorite evenings in San Gimignano are spent on the terrace at Il Trovatore around a large table with my Glam Italia Tour ladies or local friends, eating their insanely good pizza, drinking jugs of wine, and talking all night long.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

Sweet Things

I have 2 favorite sweet foods in Tuscany, one is a day time food and one happens at the end of a long, satisfying Tuscan dinner.

13. Panforte

This is not a strong bread (pan-forte), it is a spicy cake. Its origins date back to 1205 when servants had to take it as gifts to the nuns of Montecelso Abbey in Siena. Overtime it became a Christmas gift to the nuns and a treat aristocrats would enjoy on special occasions. Made from sugar and honey and nuts and dried fruits with pepper and spices (cloves, ginger, cinnamon) panforte is typically cooked in a shallow pan, dusted with powdered sugar, and served in narrow slices with coffee.

Panforte di Siena
Panforte

This is a Sienese specialty, and in my humble opinion it is a crime to go to Siena (or Florence) and not at least try it. Panforte is my favorite thing – I love it with coffee in the morning. Despite the sugar and honey it is a guilt free food because you walk so much over there you burn it off before lunch!

Note: you can actually eat it all day and night. The morning thing is just my favorite. If I allow myself one sweet thing, in a toss-up between having a gelato at some point in the day or a slice of panforte, the panforte will always win.

14. Cantucci

At the end of a long Tuscan dinner you may be served with a couple of cantucci and a short glass of dense dessert wine called vin santo.

Cantucci are small crunchy almond cookies that look like mini biscotti. (The word for cookie in Italian is biscotti, so if you want to get technical, they are biscotti). You dip the cantucci (or cantuccio?) into the vin santo ad then take in your final calorie hit of the day, as if your tummy wasn’t already about to explode.

cantucci and vin santo, the perfect way to end a meal in Tuscany
Cantucci and Vin Santo

I have learned over the years that I cannot eat like an Italian. As in I can’t do all the courses they do. I’m good with just antipasti! Truth be told, on most nights out in Tuscany I don’t have room for cantucci unless I have planned it in advance. If you, like me, feel like you cannot possibly ingest even one more mouthful, then I am sorry my friend because at least once while you are there you’re going to have to take one for the team and at least try cantucci and vin santo

Traveling to Florence? Download my free Secret Florence PDF and find out which are my favorite restaurants, the best secret bars, secret jewelers and other fantastic things to see and do in Florence. Any of the items on this list will take your trip from great to completely fantastic! Download your copy here

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10 Fabulous Books You Need To Read Before Traveling To Venice

 

10 Fabulous Books Set In Venice. Any or all of these books are wonderful to read before traveling to Venice. They will open your eyes to new places, make your trip more special and spectacular, and add an extra layer of magic to your experience in the most unique city on earth.

One of the things I love to do as I prepare for a trip is to watch as many movies as I can that are set in the country I am traveling to, and read books that take place in that country or ideally in that specific city.

This clues me in to lots of cool things to look out for, things that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, and it also gives that frisson of excitement when you recognize something from a book or movie that you have loved.

I love geeking out and walking to the places in Florence and Rome that Dan Brown sends his characters to in the Angels and Demons/ Da Vinci Code/ Inferno series. In Paris I get ridiculous amounts of pleasure from hitting the places Owen Wilson goes to in the movie Midnight In Paris. The steps he sits on when he gets picked up at midnight would be completely unremarkable to anyone who hasn’t seen the film, but to all who have seen it there is a thrill in sitting on them and having someone take your photo!

RELATED POST: FABULOUS BOOKS SET IN PARIS

Every year I say I want to spend more time in Venice. Most of my Glam Italia Tours only spend a day there, and although I arrive in Italy before my tour groups get there and generally stay on a few extra days at the end, I never seem to be getting that extra time in Venice. I always find myself in Tuscany or in Rome or somewhere at the beach.

This past June (2018) I gave myself a week in Venice. I had a tour that ended with 3 days there, then spent another few days by myself doing all the things I hadn’t been able to do in ages. It was completely fantastic.

 

RELATED POST 15 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN VENICE

Of course I geeked out and went to visit many of the places that feature in the endless books I have read that are set in La Serenissima and had ridiculous amounts of fun doing it.

Venice is such a magical city, it is very hard to let go of it once you return home. So, of course I am up to my ears in books set there. I recently discovered a series by Donna Leon that I am now halfway through, and I am going to reread some of my old favorites as well because they are just so good!

RELATED POST: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT KINDLE UNLIMITED, AND HOW TO GET MY BOOK FOR FREE!

Here is a list of 10 books set in Venice that I recommend you read before you go.  I have also attached a link at the bottom of this post with 10 of my secret things to do in Venice, for those of you who want to experience more than the average tourist does. This includes my favorite restaurants, places to wander and things to visit that will keep you away from the tourist crush. It is well worth downloading! Scroll to the bottom of this post to get them.

          10 BOOKS SET IN VENICE THAT NEED TO BE ON YOUR READING LIST

This list contains Amazon.com affiliate links

 

The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane

Barry Frangipani The Venice Experiment

Barry and Debbie Frangipane are a middle aged, middle class couple from Florida who have traveled back and forth to Venice several times, and have dreamt about moving there one day. This book is the story of them living in Venice for a year, with all the fascinating people they meet, fabulous foods they eat, and the hilarious things he gets up to. (He is an absolute character!)

You too will find yourself dreaming about moving there, and if you are anything like me will get a thrill when you recognize all the places he talks about from his neighborhood and on his daily walks around the city. I have never figured out where the Mail Boxes Etc was though. (you have to read the book to find out why that is significant – it’s pretty funny!) If you do find it you have to promise me you will tell me where it is…

Get your copy here at Amazon.com

 

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

The City Of Fallen Angels

John Berendt wrote Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. Shortly after the film of the book was made he moved to Venice, arriving the day after the world famous La Fenice opera house burned to the ground.

The City of Fallen Angels is an hilarious and brilliant look at Berendt’s life in Venice, his entry into the quirky local society, and his investigation into the opera house fire. In between gondola rides to decadent parties and balls, and his exploration of the most unique city on earth, he also uncovers all kinds of art-world intrigue.

This book will forever change the way you look at the iconic Santa Maria della Salute, (beware of falling angels!) will give the Guggenheim a whole new context, and will lead you to some wonderful things you would otherwise walk right past. I had walked past the little church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli a hundred times, not knowing the story of the New Yorkers behind Save Venice and the restoration they did on the church. As told by Berendt the story is both funny and endearing!

This year I made my Venice guide walk me around the places in The City of Fallen Angels that I hadn’t been able to find on my own. The poor guy has no idea what I have in store for him next year! I really do make lists of places from the books I read, and sometimes I make my guides take me to them.

If you want a really amazing and fun guide for Venice, email me at the address on the About Me page, and I will hook you up!

Get your copy of The City of Fallen Angels here at Amazon.com

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Donna Leon Death At La Fenice

I only discovered this series when I got home from Venice this summer, and I have already consumed half of it! Donna Leon’s stories are set in Venice with her protagonist Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police. Her mysteries are clever and have the requisite twists and turns to keep you hooked until the last page. Brunetti is the kind of character that keeps you coming back for more. Even if she had set these books somewhere else I would have read them all, but the fact that they are in Venice just makes them even better!

If you have been to Venice before you will recognize the places Brunetti walks. In some of the books he is in the neighborhood where I rented an apartment in this summer, and I can literally see every calle he walks along! (Some of these places are in the bonus content at the bottom of this post.)

Death At La Fenice is the first book in the series. (La Fenice is the opera house that burned down the The City Of Fallen Angels)

Get your copy of Death At La Fenice here at Amazon.com

A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlena de Blasi

A Thousand Days In Venice

This is de Blasi’s autobiography, written as a combination of a lush travel essay and a romance.

While in Italy writing for a travel magazine chef and food and travel writer Marlena de Blasi was told she had to go to Venice, a city she had always avoided, to write a story.  After dreading going there she found she loved it, so returned the following year with a group of girlfriends.

While having coffee on their first day a waiter approaches and tells her there is a phone call for her. She refuses it as no one knows she is there. This happens every morning that week until her final day in Venice when she agrees to come to the phone.

The caller is Fernando, a banker who had spotted her across the piazza the year before and had fallen in love with her profile. After daydreaming about her for 12 months he had walked into his daily coffee bar that first morning and seen her sitting there! Too nervous to approach her he had run back to the bank and then phoned to try and talk to her.

On the final day after talking to him on the phone Fernando and Marlena rode around Venice on the vaporetto, and the love affair of a lifetime began.

Within a few months she had sold her restaurant and her house in St Louis and moved to Venice. This book tells the story of their first three years together.

if you have ever dreamed about falling in love in Venice, this is the book for you!

Get your copy of A Thousand Days In Venice here at Amazon.com

Brunetti’s Venice: Walks with the City’s Best-Loved Detective by Toni Sepeda

Brunetti's Venice

This one is on my list of books to read. Because I won’t be back in Venice until next summer I’m going to read some more Brunetti mysteries before I read it. And you know I will do all of these walks! Here is the Amazon blurb:

Follow Commissario Guido Brunetti, star of Donna Leon’s internationally best-selling mystery series, on over a dozen walks that highlight Venice’s churches, markets, bars, cafes, and palazzos
In Brunetti’s Venice, tourists and armchair travelers follow in the footsteps of Brunetti as he traverses the city he knows and loves. With his acute eye for change in his native city, his fascination with the past, his ear for language and his passion for food and drink, and his familiarity with the dark realities of crime and corruption, Brunetti is the perfect companion for any walk across La Serenissima.
Over a dozen walks, encompassing all six regions of Venice as well as the lagoon, lead readers down calli, over canali, and through campi. Important locations from the best-selling novels are highlighted and major themes and characters are explored, all accompanied by poignant excerpts from the novels. This is a must-have companion book for any lover of Donna Leon’s wonderful mysteries.

Get your copy of Brunetti’s Venice here at Amazon.com

Dreaming of Venice by T.A Williams

Dreaming of Venice Book Cover

I read this on the plane to Italy this summer. I’m not normally a romance reader, but at some point had bought this book on my Kindle app, and it had been sitting there forever. Having finished my John Milton book during the flight and with hours still to go, I clicked on it not expecting to like it, but I couldn’t put it down!

Dreaming Of Venice is a good little story to read, especially if you are going to Venice or if you are dreaming about going to Venice.

Williams gives an really good description of  the leading man in the book, an enigmatic character with a pirate-styled black beard. On my first day back in Venice this summer I did a huge double-take when I spotted the man who surely had to be the inspiration for this book! At first I thought I imagined it, but then I saw him several more times and am 100% sure, because two people could not be more similar, even if one of them is a fictional character!

If you read this book and go to Venice, keep an eye out for a water taxi named Tali. You will die when you see the driver! I have made several acquaintances and friends read the book this summer prior to going to Venice, and everyone thinks the same. I keep getting photos of him texted to me from travelers, with messages saying “is this the guy from the book???”

If you spot him and think its the guy in the book you have to message me!

Get your copy of Dreaming of Venice here at Amazon.com

A Stopover in Venice by Kathryn Walker

A Stopover in Venice

I read this book years ago and was actually clicking around on google trying to find it when I came up with the idea of doing a post on books set in Venice. I had forgotten them name of the book and the author, and only found it by typing in details that I could remember about the story.

I loved this book and am looking forward to re-reading it soon.

Nel Everett, a young American woman, is touring Italy with her famous musician husband when, in a moment of fury, she pulls down her luggage and gets off the train. As her life speeds away down the tracks, Nel is marooned and on her own for the first time in eight years.

Bewildered, Nel returns to Venice where she encounters a tiny dog who leads her to a enigmatic stranger, a contessa, and a decaying Gothic palazzo. She is soon drawn into a world of charismatic characters, centuries of Venetian history, and the mystery of a lost masterpiece. What begins as a tale of loneliness and heartbreak opens into a dazzling, enchanting  story of secrets and self-discovery in a magical city.

Get your copy of A Stopover In Venice here at Amazon.com

One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino

nicky Pellegrino One Summer In Venice

Nicky Pellegrino lives in my home country, New Zealand, and writes books set in Italy. I first discovered her when I came home from a summer in Sicily and had to read everything I could get my hands on that was set there. She had written a gorgeous book that left me aching even more to go back.

Her books are fabulous.

This isn’t a mid-life crisis OK? For a start I’m not old enough yet to have one of those. I’m calling it a happiness project. I’ve stolen an entire summer from my life and by the time it’s over I plan to leave this place with a list in my hand. The ten things that make me happy, that’s all I want to know. How difficult can it be? They may be small things – a perfect cup of coffee, a day without rain – or bigger ones. It’s still the beginning so how can I know?

Addolorata Martinelli knows she should be happy. She has everything she thought she wanted – her own business, a husband, a child. So why does she feel as if something is missing? Then when her restaurant, Little Italy, is slated by a reviewer, she realises that she’s lost the one thing she thought she could always count on, her love of food.

So Addolorata heads to Venice for a summer alone, aiming to find the ten things that make her happy. Once she’s found them, she’ll construct a new life around her ten things, but will they include her life in London?

Get your copy of One Summer In Venice here at Amazon.com

In the Company of the Courtesan: A Novel by Sarah Dunant

In The Company Of The Courtesan

 

I haven’t read this one, but this summer one of my Glam Italia Tour travelers had it with her and was just beside herself as we went to the various places in the book. She has made me promise to read it, and it is on my kindle app, waiting for me to finish my latest Commissario Brunetti book. Here is the Amazon blurb:

My lady, Fiammetta Bianchini, was plucking her eyebrows and biting color into her lips when the unthinkable happened and the Holy Roman Emperor’s army blew a hole in the wall of God’s eternal city, letting in a flood of half-starved, half-crazed troops bent on pillage and punishment.

Thus begins In the Company of the Courtesan, Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of life in Renaissance Italy. Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, with their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, head for Venice, the shimmering city born out of water to become a miracle of east-west trade: rich and rancid, pious and profitable, beautiful and squalid.

With a mix of courage and cunning they infiltrate Venetian society. Together they make the perfect partnership: the sharp-tongued, sharp-witted dwarf, and his vibrant mistress, trained from birth to charm, entertain, and satisfy men who have the money to support her.

Yet as their fortunes rise, this perfect partnership comes under threat, from the searing passion of a lover who wants more than his allotted nights to the attentions of an admiring Turk in search of human novelties for his sultan’s court. But Fiammetta and Bucino’s greatest challenge comes from a young crippled woman, a blind healer who insinuates herself into their lives and hearts with devastating consequences for them all.

A story of desire and deception, sin and religion, loyalty and friendship, In the Company of the Courtesan paints a portrait of one of the world’s greatest cities at its most potent moment in history: It is a picture that remains vivid long after the final page.

Get your copy of In The Company Of The Courtesan here at Amazon.com

Glam Italia! How to travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) by Corinna Cooke

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy

Of course I am going to put my book on here! This genius book, written by me, isn’t actually about Venice specifically, although I do talk about Venice. Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is essential reading for anyone planning or dreaming of a trip to Italy.

This book helps you to plan your trip, figure out where to go, where to stay, how many nights to stay in each place. We look at transport options, how to get from city to city, from village to township.

There is an entire section of the book devoted to helping you while you are on the ground in Italy. From what you need to know about shopping to how to choose a restaurant, from how to order coffee to a step by step guide on how to use the trains. Italy food and wine is entirely regional. You don’t order lasagna on the Amalfi Coast and you don’t order chianti in Venice. Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy has a guide for which wines to order in each region of the country and a guide to help you choose local dishes in each region.

You will learn what to do if you get sick while you’re away, and what to do if your plans go sideways. You will also discover what you need to know about beachlife in Italy, how to work your money, and how to work your phones. There are 26 chapters packed full of really helpful information, peppered with some of my personal travel stories.

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy has already become a best seller. (It’s a really great book!) You can get your copy here on Amazon.com

Have you read any fabulous books set in Venice? I am always looking for more, so please let me know in the comments section below!

Bonus Information:

I have created a downloadable PDF with 10 of my secret places to visit in Venice. These are places that most tourists don’t know about and don’t go to, including my favorite restaurants, favorite places to wander around and some really great spots that you will just love!

This is information that I won’t be sharing on the blog. It is just for those who really want to add something special to their trip to Venice. Click here to get your bonus Venice PDF

 

 

 

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