Some of the loveliest novels have been inspired by great places… over the next few days, I’ll select four destinations that inspired four bestsellers…
DON’T LOOK NOW BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER
Venice is sinking,” says John Baxter, the central character of Daphne du Maurier’s disturbing short story Don’t Look Now. “The whole city is slowly dying.” Having been inspired after a holiday there in the late 1960s, du Maurier aptly set her thriller in Venice, a city that is intrinsically linked to the theme of mortality. Dealing with subject matters such as grief, marriage and repression, the book has a dark undercurrent that matches the Venice of swirling fogs, dim walkways and echoing canals. The haunting tale sees the characters go sightseeing but also get caught up in the maze of alleyways and unrecognizable bridges. “They might circle round and round forever and then find themselves back again…” But despite the dark themes, for modern-day travellers, this is the true beauty of Venice. Get beyond the tourist hoards and the main thoroughfares, and you’ll find a city that reveals something new no matter how many times you visit. As du Maurier wrote: “The beauty of Venice rose before them, sharply outlined against the glowing sky, and there was still so much to see…”
WHERE TO GO
The island of Torcello is where the book opens and where the characters ominously meet the psychic sisters, who tell them that they have had a vision of their dead daughter. A 40-minute ferry ride from central Venice, this is a tranquil place to wander around and escape the crowds. Follow in the footsteps of du Maurier’s characters and make sure you visit the lagoon’s oldest cathedral the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back to 639. The beauty of Venice is found off the beaten track, so wander around and get lost. You’ll discover treasures on every corner. To see the wonder of Venice mapped out before you and beyond, travel to the top of the Campanile, in piazza San Marco, the city’s tallest building.
WHERE TO EAT
While there are many fancy restaurants to be found, the best way to fill your boots in Venice is to sample the delicious cicchetti, or Venetian tapas, in the city’s many bàcari. One of the best is Antico Dolo (anticodolo.it) found in Ruga VEcchia SAn Giovanni (known better as Ruga Rialto), a few steps away from the Rialto’s incredible food market. Try the fried zucchini or the Maltagliati with scallops and Treviso red chicory.
For a another local haunt, take the vaporetto to Ca’ d’Oro and you’ll find Osteria Ca’ d’Oro (known by locals as Alla Vedova – the Widow’s Place, 041 528 5324). It’s a Venetian favourite – stand at the bar and try their renowned polpette (meatballs) or bag a bare wooden table and tuck into the spaghetti in cuttlefish ink.
WHERE TO STAY
The new Aman Venezia is quite possibly the most ravishing place you’ll ever stay in the world, let alone the noble surroundings of Venice. It has been carved out of a 16th century Palazzo in the San Polo area. Your arrival by water taxi, straight to the original porta d’aqua, will set the tone: it’s quite possibly one of the most breathtaking ways to enter a hotel. Inside – subtlety is key, despite the sheer ornateness of the place. There’s no branding, no name over the door or any sign that this is a five-star plus hotel and so you feel you are a house guest in an extremely grand house. But this is what the Aman are known for. Here in Venice, this approach is elevated further due to the stunning surroundings – oversized, glittering Murano glass chandeliers hang overhead, huge iron lanterns remind you of a bygone time, original carved doors lead on to minimalist rooms, gilded cornices and original Tiepolo ceilings look down on you to remind you how exceptional this place is. amanresorts.com