A Trip to Venice II: Literary Highlights

Following from my previous post where I talked about Venice’s cultural highlights, below is the overview of my literary exploration of Venice.

I. Studium Bookshop

This stylish bookshop, not far from St Mark’s Square, exceeded my expectations. It is packed with beautiful fiction and non-fiction books on many subjects, from travel guides and children’s fiction to Italian cook-books and illustrated marvels on Japanese art. There are also sections devoted to English, French and Spanish books, and the staff is very friendly. It is here that I bought my now-much-cherished Spanish-language edition of Italian classic The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, and, as you can see from the photographs below, I was very impressed by this bookstore’s Corto Maltese section. Corto Maltese is a series of comic books by Hugo Pratt that talks about adventures of sailor Corto Maltese in the first and second decade of the twentieth century. One of those is titled Corto Maltese: Fable of Venice, and people also recommended to me the book The Secret Venice of Corto Maltese: Fantastic and Hidden Itineraries.

II. Pensione Wildner & Hotel Danieli

“I lodged on the Riva 4161 (now pensione Wildner), quarto piano. The view from my window was una bellezza; the far-shining lagoon, the pink walls of San Giorgio, the downward curve of the Riva, the distant islands, the movement of the quay, the gondolas in profile. Here I wrote, diligently every day and finished, my novel (Portrait of a Lady)”, Henry James in his notebooks

Pensione Wildner in Venice is a place where Henry James finished his most celebrated novel The Portrait of a Lady, about a free-spirited and intelligent young woman Isabel Archer who makes rather unforeseen life choices as she receives unexpected inheritance. The second half of the novel takes place in Italy. Next to Pensione Wildner is the lavish Hotel Danieli, built at end of the fourteenth and once a temporary residence of such literary giants as Proust and Balzac.

III. Acqua Alta Bookshop

Tucked away in the Castello area of the city, Acqua Alta claims to be “the most beautiful bookshop in the world”. Though this statement can be challenged, there is no denying that this bookshop is one of the most unusual and exciting bookshops out there. It is a very cosy and wondrous place filled with cats (though I only saw one during my visit), and old (second-hand) and new books on every topic under the sun. Some really nice bookish bargains can be made in this place, and I bought a lovely art book that talks about Vittore Carpaccio‘s masterpieces.

IV. Books Spotted/Bought

As I said above, I bought Manzoni’s book, an art book and some Corto Maltese books in Italian. What I did not expect to see in Italy was so much Japanese manga everywhere, and each Italian bookshop has so much “serious” variety of it, it left me awestruck: Fujiko Fujio, Osamu Tezuka, Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon, etc., plus anime adaptations, you name it – they’ve got it, but not always in English, of course. Italian books of illustrations must be the most beautiful I have ever seen, and I also could not resist taking photos of some stunning Italian editions of Harry Potter.


14 thoughts on “A Trip to Venice II: Literary Highlights

    1. Thanks for the link! Though I read a number of James’s major works I have only read two of his shorter works – Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw, so I am now definitely adding The Aspern Papers to my TBR list and I am intrigued that it is set in Venice.

      Actually I did try to read his novella What Maisie Knew on my flight to Venice, but I did not progress too far with it at all…I also keep comparing his work with Wharton and even Hardy (at times now not very favourably!)

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    1. Not as many people as I thought there would be, but quite crowded near main attractions. The museums I went to were mostly empty – strangely. And yes, I bought Fable of Venice and a couple of others (the ones I got at home are in French) and as you can see from my photos I could not get enough of the Corto Maltese stuff! 🙂 I lived in Brussels and I think I know one mural, but there are maybe more and I will be very interested seeing your photo.

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      1. Venice is like Florence. If you walk two streets parallel to the. main crowds, you’re fine. Works in Paris or anywhere actually.
        Do you have “La ballade de la mer salée”? The first Corto?
        The mural in Brussels, actually a series of three (or four?) is on the Quai des péniches…

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