You Had Me At…

“… Venice is a state of mind. That is, the scintillating, kaleidoscopic, shifting colors of that watery realm remain alive inside me long after I depart the actual city.”

This from Frances Mayes’ Foreword to Dream of Venice, the 2014 book by editor JoAnn Locktov and photographer Charles Christopher. They’ve created a sumptuous and vibrant book that leads readers through Venice’s different moods, seasons, and emotions by pairing Christopher’s photos with quotes by Venetophiles.

Paging through Dream of Venice evoked all kinds of memories for me. Following the Foreword, the first photo shows the sculpture in the lagoon between Fondamente Nuove and the island of San Michele. Here’s my pic of it from 2011:


The Barque of Dante (2007), by Russian sculptor Georgi Frangulyan.

Seeing these two robed figures aboard their leaf-shaped vessel always tells me I’m approaching Venice. It is at about this time that my throat tightens, as I know for certain that I am arriving back to my city.

The facing quote by Alessandro Falassi calls Venice a “liminal space par excellence.” I recall first learning about liminal spaces when I was in a college anthropology course. To refresh my memory (college was some years ago!), I looked up liminality and found this:

Liminality is the in-between moments, the space between an inciting incident in a story and the protagonist’s resolution. It is often a period of discomfort, of waiting, and of transformation. Your characters’ old habits, beliefs, and even personal identity disintegrates. (

The zone where this sculpture floats is a liminal space, an in-between moment for me as I arrive at this city that never fails to transform me. Locktov’s choice of Falassi’s quote here was spot-on.

Then there’s a poem by Rachel Dacus where she writes, “I have taken to wearing Venice on my wrist.” She has found out my secret! Whenever I make a presentation about Venice, I always wear something Venetian, whether it’s on my wrist, or earrings in my ears, or my strappy heels on my feet. This is my way of keeping Venice with me, present in those moments, like I’ve brought along the city as my date for that evening.

Me wearing my favorite Venetian necklace

Me wearing my favorite Venetian necklace

Then Dianne Hales tells the story of the older man who compliments her in Italian. I had to stop reading so I might relive the memory (the memories!) of the men I had kissed impulsively in Venice. It’s a city for kissing. Christopher’s photo of a lopsided archway and a ghost-like couple represents the fleeting sensation of these kinds of encounters.

Dream of Venice captures all those dreamy moments that are so hard to freeze with static words, words that have a limited power. The combination of poems and quotes paired with pictures brings the city rushing back into my veins. What is there to say when instead I can feel?


I could go on like this for a while to recommend the book, but you should get to experience it for yourself instead. I’ll just tease you with a few details:

–A phrase new to me: “In piedi come un veneziano”–to walk like a Venetian.

–Rich colors in photos of water, of ceilings, of boats, of dusk and fog and midnight.

–Insights into the making of The Wings of the Dove (which some of my gondolier friends worked on).

–Assassins transformed into cats? Read Erica Jong to find out.

–The delicious butt on the moor statue atop the clock tower.

–Venice compared to LSD!

Dream of Venice is not something to read in one sitting, but is something to be sipped like a good grappa. It made me pay attention to things like the possibility in the odor of mildew, or a fear of pilings for foundations. You can certainly transport yourself to Venice to enjoy some lovely moments with this book in your hands.

Photo in the book, as seen on the website

Photo in the book, as seen on the website

For more info, visit:


About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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4 Responses to You Had Me At…

  1. Linda says:

    Your posts always entertain me. This one enchanted me. Your careful choice of words and pictures reveals the English teacher in you. I have just returned from my third visit to Venice and I saw the sculpture in the lagoon you spoke about. Thank you for bringing that memory for me.

    • Hi Linda,
      Thanks for taking the time to write! Yes, my English teacher self rears up often. 🙂 I’m so pleased to hear that my blog post evoked memories for you too, which is just what Dream of Venice did for me.

  2. Cecelia Pierotti says:

    Hi there, Cecelia Pierotti here…..have enjoyed your blog for some time! Just returned from a six week stay in Venice (my 13th,14th?!!!! time)… clearly obsessed (even have a tattoo to prove it :-)…’ve met in person with a good friend of mine in the past, Lizzie Salthouse, and she has turned me on to your blog and books (loved the Casanova book, am due to read the Gondoliere and your most recent book on the women of Venice!) . But I’m writing because you and I are “neighbors”…..I live in Vallejo, and I would love to meet with you in person if you are so inclined, or have the time….we could meet somewhere in the middle (you live in San Jose, Fremont area?) Let me know if we could get together…..please feel free to check out my Facebook page, as then you can put more of a face on me and perhaps not be too weirded out by my wanting to meet up with you and talk things Venetian….take good care and I hope to meet you some time down the road! Cecelia

    Date: Fri, 2 Oct 2015 00:22:30 +0000 To:

  3. Nancy Schwalen says:

    Oh my god, you are tempting me with a book. Sigh.

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