Saturday, November 28, 2009

Venice Is a Fish

"Venice Is a Fish"
-Tiziano Scarpa
ISBN: 9781592404070

Back cover: "Venice is a fish," writes Tiziano Scarpa. "It's like a vast sole stretched out against the deep. How did this marvelous beast make its way up the Adriatic and fetch up here, of all places?" Paying homage to his native city in a lyrical and evocative style, he guides readers down tiny alleys, over bridges, and through squares, daring us to lose ourselves, forget the guidebooks, and experience Venice as Venetians do.

Venice Is a Fish provides no hotel ratings or museum hours. Instead, in a delightful initiation, Scarpa tells us how to balance while standing on a gondola; where lovers will find the best secret hiding places; the finer points of etiquette and navigation during an agua alta; and how best to defend ourselves from the pitiless beauty of one of the world's most stimulating cities. Open Venice Is a Fish, and Scarpa's magnificent images, secret history, and hidden lore unfold like a treasure map of the senses.

Thoughts: This was a wonderful little book. Fantastic language and descriptions of places, people, and of everything about Venice. Scarpa is also a poet, and that comes through in his writing. "VIaF" is not to be gulped down in one sitting - it should be dipped into and savored in little bits, letting the words sink in and settle inside your bones. Each chapter is titled after a body part, and Scarpa spends each one describing what happens to each part while you're in the city. That might sound a little pretentious and/or pervy, but it's so dreamy and lush that I just floated along happily with him.

This book feels like Venice feels, and everything he says seems so possible, it wouldn't surprise me to walk into any scene he describes every time I turned a corner. Even the ones involving people doing all sorts of private business in the streets - it wouldn't surprise me to find any of them happening at any time. I was beginning to forget what the city is actually like - how the breeze feels on your arms, the way the sun cuts between the buildings, the locals shouting to each other across a small canal - and this book brought it back. I read it almost like I was in a dream state, happily being pulled along with Tiziano, like a hovering balloon or a shadow. This book is absolutely gorgeous and witty and unlike any other travel book I've ever seen. It's subtitled "a sensual guide", and it's a completely accurate description. A dreamy gem of a book!


  1. What a fantastic title! I am dying to visit Venice, but reading about it is the next best thing!

  2. That's why I love reading travel literature - it's the next best thing to actually going there! And you HAVE TO go to Venice at some point! I think it's one of the few cities that have to be visited to be truly appreciated. I know that argument could be made about any city, but there isn't anywhere else on earth quite like Venice! Do you have a travel fund I should be contributing to? ;-)